The Affordable Care Act Comes to Main Street

The healthcare industry has already felt the effects of certain reform measures of the Affordable Care Act, including the Medical Device Tax, the formation of accountable care organizations, and an emphasis on reducing hospital readmissions, with penalties for hospitals who don’t meet the requirements.

As the October 1 launch of the health exchanges approached, healthcare was certainly making the headlines, and forcing the public to take notice. Consider:

  • According to USA Today, Walgreens, the USA’s largest drugstore chain, said it will send its workers to a private health insurance exchange, which is similar to those offered to uninsured Americans by the federal government next month. The Walgreens program provides more health coverage choices and an opportunity for most employees to lower their out-of-pocket health care costs next year, the company said. Walgreens says it will also allow the company to continue offering health insurance and wellness benefits to its employees as the plan administrator, while providing tools and resources that help employees personalize coverage for themselves and their dependents.
  • According to a Wall Street Journal article, Time Warner plans to move its U.S. retirees from company-administered health plans to private exchanges, a person familiar with the matter told the newspaper. The company will allocate funds in special accounts that retirees can use to go shop for coverage, the person said. It will take effect Jan. 1, 2014. IBM also plans to move about 110,000 of its own retirees off its company-sponsored health plan to a Medicare insurance exchange.

Had the employer mandate not been delayed, the impact on businesses and the economy would have been more pronounced this fall. As is, employers are still researching how best to handle health insurance as costs increase.

Confusion and misinformation about the law haven’t significantly abated, especially among the law’s main targets, according to a recent USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll:

  • Among the 19 percent polled who are uninsured, nearly 4 in 10 don’t realize the law requires them to get health insurance next year.
  • Among young people, whose participation is seen as crucial for the exchanges to work, just 56 percent realize there’s a mandate to be insured or face a fine.
  • And in the states that have refused to participate in the insurance marketplaces – defaulting instead to the federal exchange – knowledge about the Affordable Care Act and support for it are notably lower than in states that are setting up their own exchanges.

Healthcare looks to be front and center on the national stage in the coming weeks and months.

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