Weighing in on health care reform: Orange County Featured

4:59am 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: 

Loren Shook
Chairman, president and CEO
Silverado 

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

Silverado has been preparing for health care reform since its inception and will be ready to offer the appropriate plan when the law becomes effective.

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

Silverado has been implementing wellness initiatives over many years because we believe that healthy behaviors add years to your life and make for happier associates. Our associates are involved in daily exercise programs at work, as well as weight-loss programs, smoking cessation programs, healthy cooking contests, etc. We make it fun to get involved and reward healthy behaviors with Healthy Stars. These Healthy Stars can be redeemed in an online catalog for prizes such as electronics, luggage, jewelry, etc. We also offer discounted medical premiums to associates who complete biometrics, a health care assessment and who are non-smokers. 

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

Education is key in health care cost containment; for example, shopping for the best price for an MRI when it’s not an emergency situation is a way for the associate and the employer to contain costs. Another high-cost item is going to the emergency room when it’s not an emergency; identify where your local urgent care is located and use that in off hours for minor issues. And we really stress getting all your preventive care taken care of yearly — that’s a big one — be aware of whether you have high blood pressure and modify your lifestyle and/or take the appropriate medication. It’s really common sense, don’t spend money you don’t have to spend, whether it’s your money or the company’s money and proactively take care of yourself.  

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

We have a partnership with our associates. As costs rise, so do the costs to the employer and employee. Silverado absorbs the bigger share, but associates must also pay their fair share and understand how their lifestyle and consumer choices affect the cost of healthcare.

One of the questions our employees ask is, ‘Are we going to cut people back to part time?’ No, we will not reduce the hours of our associates. We value the services of full-time associates who are passionate and trained to serve our vulnerable populations whether it is serving people in their home, in our memory care communities or in their home on hospice care at the end of life. We will continue to maximize the number of full-time staff possible.

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.