Weighing in on health care reform: Akron Featured

7:26am EDT December 19, 2013

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called the Affordable Care Act represents some of the most far-reaching government overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since 1965 when Medicare and Medicaid came into being. It will be phased in over time, but a number of changes have been delayed and won’t be in effect until 2015.

The act focuses on increasing the rate of health insurance coverage for American and reducing health care costs. Here’s what some area businesses have on their minds about health care reform as the time nears for the full impact of the ACA: 

Steve Brubaker
chief of staff
InfoCision 

How is your company preparing for changes associated with health care reform? 

When you have more than 4,000 employees, proactive education is key. We didn’t take the postponement of the employer mandate deadline as an opportunity to sit back. Instead, we viewed it as an opportunity to continue to educate our employees and provide them with the information they need to make informed decisions. We are doing this though our internal communication channels such as our employee newsletter, employee intranet, email and personalized face-to-face meetings.

What are you doing specifically to contain health care costs for your employees? 

While many companies are cutting back on employee amenities, as a self-insured employer, we embrace them. For example, we recently implemented a free employer-based diabetes wellness program where we provide employees with free educational materials, monitors and test strips. We also subsidize the cost of flu shots through our onsite wellness clinics. Annually, we provide more than 1,000 flu shots to our employees and members of their family. 

Do you foresee having employees pay a larger share of company-offered health care coverage? 

We continue to comply with all of the ACA’s expanded coverage choices so we can provide our employees with effective and affordable options that meet their family’s individual needs. As a self-insured employer we will continue to offer and subsidize convenient and healthy options like our on-site wellness clinics and fitness facilities. These tools help to promote healthy decisions with no out-of-pocket expense to our employees. 

 

Bob Littman
CEO
SS&G 

How is your company preparing for changes associated with health care reform? 

SS&G started mapping out a strategy in 2010. We created contingency plans and developed communication pieces that could be altered as the law changed. By staying informed and up-to-date with key provisions and due dates, we have never had to work last minute or rush to make changes.

Have to studied or instituted wellness programs to contain health care costs for your employees?

SS&G began a wellness program in 2006 that encourages and motivates employees to maintain their overall health, which in turn helps reduce the firm’s health care costs. As part of our self-insured health plan, we offer wellness credits which allow an employee to reduce their deductible by $800. 

What other things are you doing specifically to contain health care costs for your employees? 

SS&G is committed to providing outstanding benefits to our employees and their families, and educating them on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. As part of our wellness program, we offer gym reimbursement, discounted bootcamp fitness classes, on-site flu shots, free wellness seminars and competitive fitness challenges throughout the year. 

Do you foresee having employees pay a larger share of company-offered health care coverage? 

Based on the new fees and taxes associated with the Affordable Care Act, employee’s health insurance contributions will be slightly increased for the 2014 calendar year, but employees’ share  of the company-offered health insurance will not change. SS&G will continue to pay a large percent of employees’ premiums and is not making any plan modifications or increases to deductibles or co-pays.

Dave Michelson
President and CEO
National Interstate

How is your company preparing for changes associated with health care reform? 

National Interstate typically reviews all our benefit programs on an annual basis. The enactment of health care reform has not materially changed that process; it has simply added another layer of compliance-related items that we must be mindful of.  Our primary goal of providing benefit programs to meet the needs of our employees and their families remains unchanged. 

Have to studied or instituted wellness programs to contain health care costs for your employees? 

Over the last several years, National Interstate has implemented a variety of wellness programs primarily in response to our employees including initiatives such as an onsite flu shot clinic, monthly newsletter, health fairs including screenings and wellness vendors, as well as lunch and learn speakers. There is no question employees have greater access to information and resources promoting healthy lifestyles than ever before. For an employer, it can often be difficult to quantify the results of individual employees reaching their health goal. It may simply mean that employee was able to attend a son or daughter’s soccer game. Those kinds of results are important in addition to focusing on healthcare cost containment. 

What other things are you doing specifically to contain health care costs for your employees? 

We believe educating employees about the plan they participate in is a key factor in containing health care costs. Most medical plans have discounts and incentives already built into the plan design, yet many times employees don’t fully utilize these features. We work in conjunction with our health care provider to disseminate information to employees so they can make informed health care decisions. 

Do you foresee having employees pay a larger share of company-offered health care coverage?

It is impossible to predict what the future holds in terms of health care costs. What we do know is if our employees collectively work as a team, we have the best chance of minimizing health care costs for our organization. While we make health care choices as individuals, the impact of those choices from a rate perspective is felt amongst the group participating in the plan.

Anthony McBride
Principal, human resources
Edward Jones

How is your company preparing for changes associated with health care reform? 

We have been making changes to eligibility and benefit levels as required by the regulations since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. We have made required modifications to our group medical plan to ensure that it meets the guidelines for 2014. We will continue to closely monitoring the regulations so that we are prepared to meet future requirements of the law.

Have you studied or instituted wellness programs to contain health care costs for your employees? 

We have had a wellness program in place for several years, and anticipate it will help contain cost increases in the future by motivating our plan members to be aware of and gradually improve their health over time.

Due to health care reform what other things are you doing specifically to contain health care costs for your employees? 

By 2009, we had moved to a consumer-driven health plan model. Our plan includes some pharmacy and medical treatment programs that help direct members to lower cost, higher quality sources of care. Soon we’ll introduce online cost/quality transparency tools to help raise awareness of the disparate cost spread that can exist even within an approved provider network. 

Do you foresee having employees pay a larger share of company-offered health care coverage? 

While we do not plan to shift a greater proportion of the cost to associates in 2014, the overall costs for health care continue to rise. In this regard, we have added a surcharge to cover spouses who have their own employer-based coverage available. We cannot speculate on what may happen in the future because the health care landscape is undergoing so much fluctuation.