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Rules keep biz health plans in check

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Health care reform, most of it, doesn’t really kick in ’til 2014. But businesses are worried now that it is going to hit them hard in the pocketbooks. That’s part of why the White House released new rules today aimed at keeping employers from raising premiums or scaling back care in advance.

By Janet Babin

One of the goals of reform was to let people keep the health coverage they have. The new rules give businesses an incentive to make that happen: The government exempts them from costly upgrades — like paying the full cost for preventive care starting this September — so long as they keep the status quo. Companies that change any part of their coverage could lose their exemptions.

Michelle Dimarob with the National Federation of Independent Business says the regulations are too strict.

“If you like what you’ve got and you’re a small business owner, you better get ready to say goodbye to it,” Dimarob said. “Any variation you’re going to be making to your plan is nearly likely to throw you out of the ability to keep it.”

For example, companies that increase co-pays by a certain amount won’t have their exemptions grandfathered in. Larry Levitt with the Kaiser Family Foundation says the administration tried to strike a balance.

“I mean, they could’ve taken a very hard line and said, any changes in a plan means that it loses its grandfathered status,” Levitt said.

If the regulations hold, some small businesses could drop workplace insurance altogether. Dr. Bill Roper is dean of the medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He hopes that doesn’t happen.

“I hope they take the long view and do responsible things that are beneficial to our employer-based health insurance system in America,” he said.

The government will take comments on the new regs for the next 60 days.

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