Weighing in on health care reform: Chicago Featured

10:44am EDT January 3, 2014

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: 

Craig Vodnik
co-founder and VP of operations
cleverbridge

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

We don’t expect the changes to affect us as we already offer great health care to our employees. However, we will have to wait and see if the new law affects the health care we currently offer. 

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

Yes, we currently have a wellness program that includes a fitness challenge, running club and bringing in wellness-related speakers to the office (i.e. ergonomic experts, bike safety, etc.). Next year, regardless of the U.S. health care reform, we are planning a full year wellness program as we’ve seen the benefits of them. It not only rewards employees for their efforts with prizes such as round-trip airline tickets, but we’ve seen camaraderie and teamwork improve as well. 

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

Many years ago, we decided to offer multiple health care plans — not just one at a high cost to the company and the employee. This offered a good plan at a lower cost for employees that don’t use it much. We also offer an HSA so employees can pay for out-of-pocket health care tax-free. 

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

We do not foresee a change in the current employer/employee health care contribution. However, we believe employees paying a meaningful part of health care costs helps them realize the real cost of health care. This better enables them identify which plan is a best fit for them, and if they choose a lower-cost option, it in turn lowers our costs as well.

 

Thomas Moran
CEO
Addison Group 

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

We believe that we are an Employer of Choice in our industry, it is important for us to offer medical plans that are compliant under ACA and our employees would not be subject to the individual mandate penalties for not offering ACA-compliant plans. 

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

In 2014, we will be offering a wellness plan to our employees for the first time in the Company’s history.  The wellness program will reward employees for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and having an annual physical.  We plan to continue to develop our wellness programs for 2015 and beyond. We will add more incentives and encourage our employees to focus on their overall health and wellness. 

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

In 2014, our benefits will be administered through a private health exchange.  This will provide our employees with more options for their medical coverage which will result in better consumerism by the employee.  We believe this will lower health care costs as employees will select a medical plan that fits their current lifestyle needs.  Whereas in the past, we had a limited number of medical plan options which resulted in some employees being “over insured.” 

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

We do not foresee a change in the current employer/employee health care contribution. However, we believe employees paying a meaningful part of health care costs helps them realize the real cost of health care. This better enables them identify which plan is a best fit for them, and if they choose a lower-cost option, it in turn lowers our costs as well.

 

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.