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Panel addresses shifts in health care under Affordable Care Act

Ashley Hirtzel

A panel discussion on health care reform was held at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York headquarters Friday. The session aimed to address the present and future of health care as session two of the Affordable Care Act launches with open enrollment on November 15th.

One question posed during the discussion was whether employers will drive workers more to the New York State health exchanges for insurance? BlueCross President and CEO Dave Anderson says he doesn’t believe employers will immediately switch solely to the exchanges.

“There are a number of reasons for that. The ability for businesses to remain competitive and be able to attract and retain those employees. I think that’s a key element. That’s not going to go away. Secondly, there still is a fair amount of concern about the effectiveness of the administration. Can they really handle it?, ” said Anderson.

Anderson says people are fortunate to have the New York State health exchanges available, but he believes there’s a lot of caution by employers to simply wash their hands of benefits.

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO
Kaleida Health Executive Vice President and CMO Dr. David Hughes addressing the audience

“Certainly there’s some of that. I think that it may gain a little bit of momentum, but personally we don’t think that will happen immediately or within the two to three year period,” said Anderson.

Another question posed during the discussion was when the uncertainty of health care reform will settle down? Milliman Acutary Mike Gaal says he believes the only uncertainty left is the excise tax for employers.

“As we’re bumping up on 2015 I think there’s this reality that we really have to start thinking about this. Employers for a number of years they we’re not looking at this at all. You look at some recent surveys and you’re looking at 50 percent of employers who are very, very concerned about potentially hitting that excise tax limit. I think you’re going to start to see a lot more changes in benefit design. I don’t think you’re going to see folks necessarily rushing leave, but you are going to start to see a change in how those benefits are delivered,” said Gaal.

Gaal says he believes unless change is made employers will face costs that they cannot absorb.

The forum was comprised of local, state, and national health officials. The entire panel includes BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York President and CEO Dave Anderson, Milliman Actuary Mike Gaal, Kaleida Health Executive Vice President and CMO Dr. David Hughes, Integrity Group Vice Chair and University at Buffalo clinical professor Dr. Evelyn Hurvitz, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York Vice President of State and Federal Relations Don Ingalls, and Small Business Marketplace New York State Health Director Kelly Smith. The session was moderated by Buffalo Niagara Partnership President and CEO Dottie Gallagher-Cohen and Buffalo News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski.

The other topics the panel discussed include the shift in marketing for health insurance among Millenial customers, the percentage of Western New Yorkers enrolled in the New York State health exchanges, and what would happen if the Affordable Care Act was repealed by Republicans.