Weighing in on health care reform: Columbus Featured

2:29am 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: 

Rich Johnson
CEO
ViaQuest 

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

ViaQuest has been working with local third party administrators to assist us in evaluating the financial impact of the Affordable Care Act. These TPAs have been able to work with us from not only the financial perspective, but also from the perspective of determining plan changes that are best for our employees and the company to meet the many requirements of the ACA.

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

Our wellness program is in its infancy. We have taken a stair step approach in the implementation of our wellness program. The first step has been to brand the program to our employees in a passive manner so that they are familiar with our wellness program and our approach to encourage participation and employee buy in. Over the next couple of years we plan to implement a more aggressive wellness program to require employee participation which will drive employee contribution levels for medical insurance. 

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

The wellness program is key for ViaQuest in containing healthcare costs for our employees. A large part of the program is making our employees aware of preventive actions that they can take, at no cost to them, to ensure their health and control health plan expenses. The company has also been encouraging participation in consumer-driven health plans to encourage cost savings to both the employee and the company. 

We also recently switched from fully insured to self-insured which is a strategic decision to contain healthcare costs for the company as well as our employees. A large part of containing healthcare costs for our employees has been selecting the right TPA for our organization and continually staying in contact to build and grow that relationship. 

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

While we continue to work to contain additional expenses and often have the company absorb healthcare increases, we do expect that employees will have to contribute additional amounts toward health care coverage in the future.

  

Amy Schultz Clubbs
President
Molina Health Care of Ohio 

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

At Molina Healthcare, we believe that everyone should have access to high quality health care and we are looking forward to the opportunity to care for additional Ohioans that will be eligible for Medicaid or for a Marketplace plan. 

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

We know that healthy people are happier and more productive so we encourage Molina employees to take part in healthy activities. At our new office building, we are building a fitness center (opening in January) that will be free for employees and will feature group fitness classes. One of our physicians is also leading a “Biggest Loser” competition as a way for employees to manage their weight in a healthy way. In an effort to make healthy choices easily accessible, we are ensuring the building’s café has plenty of nutritious options available. 

What other things are you doing specifically to contain health care costs for your employees? We are also planning a wellness fair where employees can get blood pressure screening, meet with a nutritionist and learn how to manage stress. 

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

No.

 

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.