Biz groups cautious about health reform

Bob Moon Mar 23, 2010

Biz groups cautious about health reform

Bob Moon Mar 23, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became the law of the land today. From that you might reasonably infer that it’s going to bring health care costs down. Businesses have been crying for that for decades now. But even as President Obama put pen to paper today to make it law, some business groups were still complaining health care reform doesn’t deliver what they need.

Here’s our senior business correspondent Bob Moon.

BOB MOON: All through the health care debate, we’ve heard that out-of-control costs have been hamstringing big companies and even helped push some into bankruptcy. But you’ll have to look hard for anything in the new law that directly addresses those costs.

Professor Gerald Kominski of UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research.

GERALD Kominski: Health reform is really targeted at the small group and the individual market, and those who are uninsured. There are very few provisions of this that are directly targeted to large corporations.

Kominski says the hope is that by broadening access to insurance, the big corporations that pay for the bulk of the nation’s health care now will no longer have to cover the cost of the uninsured. But he cautions there’s no guarantee that’s going to bring down premiums.

Kominski: Prices are somewhat sticky. They rise quickly, but they don’t necessarily fall in the other direction. So, I’m not optimistic that we’re going to see a drop in prices. I think what we’re more likely to see is slower rate of growth.

The fear among small businesses is that reform will cost them. Businesses with more than 50 employees are mandated to provide coverage or pay a $2,000 per worker fee. Those with fewer employees are exempt.

But at the National Federation of Independent Business, health care researcher Michelle Dimarob warns the added cost could still be stifling.

MICHELLE DIMAROB: For those who are under 50, you’re probably thinking that you’re not going to be able to grow above 50, because then you’re going to be hit with that employer mandate.

On the other hand, Steve Strauss, who wrote “The Small Business Bible,” says a provision for small businesses to buy from statewide insurance pools should boost their purchasing power and lower costs.

STEVE STRAUSS: So it’s intended to create more options for small business, and more affordable options for small business. And that’s what we want!

Even so the National Federation of Independent Business says it’s exploring its options to win changes in the new law.

I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

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