March 22, 2011
Health law still met with doubts
By RODDIE BURRIS - email@example.com
A year into President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a group of small-business people in South Carolina showed Monday that misgivings and misconceptions about the new program remain.
About 30 people attended a round table to discuss the new health insurance law and its implementation in the state.
South Carolina lawmakers are expected to take up legislation next week that would establish a health insurance exchange, which every state is mandated to have by 2014 under the new federal law passed last March 23.
The insurance exchanges are meant to serve as marketplaces where individuals and businesses with fewer than 100 employees can purchase federally subsidized health insurance coverage at more affordable costs.
The exchanges are supposed to reduce costs, increase competition and lower insurance administrative costs for small business among the insurance carriers.
Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has opposed Obama’s health care law and asked the president to allow the state to opt out of the provision. Obama has given states the option of opting out, but only if they come up with an improved plan to cover the uninsured in their states.
The Affordable Care Act is supposed to cover 31 million uninsured Americans nationwide.
“The bill that was passed is really designed to let states design insurance exchanges and really design reforms in a way that makes sense for their communities,” said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, director of coverage policy in the Office of Health Reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Brooks-LaSure was peppered with questions by small-business owners at the round table Monday at the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce. She works with all the states in establishing the mandated health exchanges and said small businesses pay an average of 18 percent more in insurance coverage costs than large businesses do and the exchanges are designed to level the playing field.
Businesses can craft their coverage through the exchanges to fit their work force.
Brooks-LaSure said the health insurance act, which was the source of widespread contention when it was in Congress, continues to be mired in misinformation, much of it generated by opponents.
Brooks-LaSure said companies with more than 50 employees that fail to offer health insurance would pay a penalty, rather than be forced to buy insurance.
Several states, including South Carolina, have sued the Obama administration over the health insurance law criticizing it as unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately is expected to hear that argument.
That means South Carolina, like other states, must hit some deadlines, said S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce President Frank Knapp.
“We know that under the Affordable Care Act, there will be things that will be put in place either by us, or for us, so it would behoove us to move forward in the best manner that does the best job for South Carolina,” Knapp said.
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