More than a year after President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, health care experts who gathered in Glendale Friday said the law continues to evolve.
“This is a very fluid piece of legislation,” said Ruthann Laswick of Black, Gould & Associates. “HHS (the Department of Health and Human Services) is constantly making clarifications. What you’re told one day could be completely different a few days later because their interpretation has changed.”
Laswick gave an introduction to the legislative side of the law during the summit at the Glendale Regional Public Safety Training Center, saying some of the changes to health care will cause business owners to reevaluate whether they offer coverage at all.
“In fact, I submit to you we’re already seeing this happen,” she said.
The reason for that, she said, is because employer-provided health care may not be economically sound even for businesses that have been doing it for years. Businesses and medical professionals will have to continue to reevaluate their positions, as well, because the Department of Health and Human Services is constantly reevaluating theirs, she said.
Laswick said people will need to watch out for curveballs from the Legislature, especially around 2014 when some of the major provisions, such as the individual mandate, go into effect.
“What you’re likely to see is politicians who are comfortable with their positions and feel secure enough to throw some bills out there only to get political opponents to vote for or against them,” she said. “Which they can then use against them in a future election. In other words, we’re going to see some ‘gotcha’ legislation.”
Paul Giancola, of Snell & Wilmer, LLP, said the PPACA is such a large piece of legislation it can be difficult to fully grasp.
“What people are asking themselves,” he said, “is will the cure be worse than the disease? That’s something we’ll find out as we go along.”
Giancola said the law has faced legal challenges to its constitutionality five times, with three courts ruling in favor and two against.
“There are two more cases scheduled to be heard in June,” he said. “Perhaps by the end of the year we will have all the decisions in and then we’ll see where it stands.”
Len Kirschner, former director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, wrapped up the day’s talk with a take on what happens next and the future of health care in America. He said much of the problems Americans face now are a result of decisions made decades ago.
“How many people here have health care coverage through their employers? It should not be that way,” he said. “We are the only country in the world that does it that way. That came about during World War II, when employers didn’t want to give raises, so they offered something comparatively less expensive: health-care coverage.”
Medicare and Medicaid, too, were intended to last only a few years. Health-care reform has been so difficult for so many presidents, he said, because they want to keep those programs around. But changes are coming.
“Employer-sponsored insurance is clearly dropping off the face of the Earth,” he said. “We’re now at less than 60 percent of us getting ESI, and that number is dropping fast.”
Kirschner was less than enthusiastic about how the next few years will play out.
“There is always something to distract us from health-care reform,” he said.
He ended the day with one last bit of dark humor, closing his slideshow presentation with a picture of the Titanic.
“Those of you who are optimistic about the future, well, I guess you didn’t see the movie.”
Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.