Questions remain after health care summit
BELOIT The final question asked at Thursday's summit on health policy seemed to sum up the confusion and uncertainty employers have with the Affordable Care Act.
Where are the cocktails?
Sue Sieger, general manager of the Onalaska-based Benefits Design Group, was the featured speaker at the event designed to help employers understand new health care mandates.
Before she started her presentation, however, she issued a disclaimer that what's known today might be obsolete in the near future, especially considering the close presidential race.
The only certainty, she said, is that understanding of the law will change in coming years as various parts of it are phased in.
"The thought that you can just erase this and start over, that's probably not going to happen," she said, adding that employers need to align themselves with experts who are on top of the still-developing law.
Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, said he and fellow panelist Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, are state lawmakers who must help the state respond to the federal law.
"We didn't vote for this," Cullen said. "I do believe in the long run that this nation and individuals in America will be far better off if everyone has access to health care."
Cullen said the common objection to the new law he hears from business owners is that they generally don't understand the law and its implications, and they have no idea what it will mean to them as it's phased in over several years.
Republicans generally have vowed to "repeal and replace" the law, which Cullen doesn't believe will happen.
"I think we instead need to revisit and revise the law," he said, adding that it was pushed through Congress quickly with no bipartisan support.
Comparing the enactment of the federal Affordable Care Act to Act 10 in Wisconsin, Cullen quoted Republican Thomas Jefferson by saying "great innovations should not be forced on a slender majority."
Loudenbeck said her business constituents tell her they are most concerned with the cost implications of the law, particularly in a state that is already considered a model in many health care initiatives.
"The law is incredibly complicated, and we are still not fully aware of everything in it and if this is really in our best interests going forward," she said, adding that several parts of the law, such as the extension of coverage to adult children, seem to be well received by the general public.
Jeff Klett, vice president of Tricor Insurance in Beloit, said he finds the law's name ironic.
"Group insurance rates are going to go way up," said Klett, who works with businesses to design health plans. "There's nothing affordable about it."
While the law's intent to increase access to health care is laudable, Klett said it was enacted too quickly and without bipartisan support.
It will result in more taxes and regulations, he said.
"I hate to say this, but every time the government gets involved, I make more money," he said. "There's so much confusion, and people like you don't have the time to sort it all out.
"That's my world."