Chesterton Tribune

Special Chamber panel debriefs on Affordable Care Act

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Seven of Porter County’s leading professionals in health care and health insurance participated in a panel discussion on Thursday, hosted by the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce as part of its Sunrise Seminar series.

More than 50 Chamber and community members attended the event, held at Riley’s Railhouse in Downtown Chesterton.

Panelists included the CEOs of Porter Regional Hospital and IU Health LaPorte Hospital; the director of business development for Franciscan Alliance; and representatives from the Anton, Anderson, Maxey, and Winey insurance agencies.

“Panelists discussed the short-and long-term ramifications of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Affordable Care Act, which upheld the government’s right to begin imposing mandatory health care coverage for both individuals and businesses with more than 50 employees beginning in 2014,” the Chamber said.

While the panelists expressed support for the legislation’s possible role in improving efficiencies and cutting costs within hospitals and across the medical industry as a whole, they also raised significant concerns regarding the unknowns of the Act. “I think that’s what’s keeping all of us up at night,” said Scott Mundell, director of business development for Franciscan Alliance.

“There’s still so much that’s not clear about how the new system is going to work—about exchanges [public marketplaces where consumers can comparison shop for health insurance]; about how hospitals are going to be reimbursed for the care they provide; and about how to make decisions today about future operations without all of the information we need.”

Panelists also discussed real-world likelihoods which could derail the Act’s effectiveness. “In an ideal world, the Act would encourage everyone to purchase insurance, and prices would go down,” said Jon Winey of Winey Insurance Agency in Chesterton.

“But what’s likely to happen is that people who are scraping by will only purchase insurance right before they need to go to the doctor to have a serious problem addressed, and once they are better, they’ll drop the insurance and go back to paying the fine, which will be less expensive than the medical costs they just entered into the system. The result will be that insurance expenses for the rest of us will go way up. That’s just the reality of how human behavior will affect this new system.”

When several audience members asked how they could make a difference in the evolution of health care reform, Porter Regional Hospital CEO Jonathan Nalli shared his perspective on the politicized nature of the Act. “In the past, hospitals used to charge whatever they wanted for services, and be reimbursed in full. Now, we’ve moved to the other extreme, where decisions about testing and overall care are extremely restricted due to issues of cost. We need something in the middle, and we need those on both political extremes to work together towards a solution. Our legislators need to take a longer view, and build a plan that will be in place 10, 12 years down the line. Then we’d have time to assess, adjust, and optimize, instead of just react to these short-term, extreme fluctuations in the system. Our legislators need to abandon partisanship and their own interests in getting reelected in order to work together on a long-term solution that will extend past term-limits.”

For information about future Sunrise Seminars, typically held the first Thursday of each month at Riley’s Railhouse, please call the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce office at (219) 926-5513.


Posted 8/10/2012