Reporter's notebook: Providers no fans of healthcare law

Friday, August 24, 2012

With so much of the national conversation in recent weeks focused on the Affordable Care Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in June, I decided to casually ask HME providers how the law would impact them. Boy, did I get an earful. From rising premiums to government intrusion, everyone had an opinion.

A ‘killer’ plan?

Arguably the biggest impact on small businesses is expected to come from the law’s requirement that employers offer health insurance. Those who don’t will pay a penalty per employee.

“It’s gonna kill us,” said Bill Lamberson, president of Lamberson’s Home Care in Duluth, Ga. “I can’t afford to provide health insurance and I am going to have to lose people to do this, not grow the company.”

Rising tide

Even providers who already offer health insurance worry about the impact of the ACA.

“As soon as that passed, my premiums went up,” said Glenn Steinke, owner of Airway Medical in Bishop, Calif. “As they continue to rise, I have to reduce the coverage just to maintain the amount of money I am spending. ‘Affordable Care Act’ is a misleading name.”

Yes, premiums will likely go up, but that’s nothing new, point out others.

“Health insurance has been volatile for the last 15 years,” said Jim Greatorex, president of Black Bear Medical in Portland, Maine. “The rates come in and you don’t know if you are going to get an increase of 15% or 30%, but it always goes up.”

Big brother

There is also fear and distrust of the new program.

“Do you want the government controlling every aspect of your life, including health care?” asked Kevin Hill, owner of CPS Medical in Tyler, Texas. “Google ‘comparative effectiveness research.’ What it means is that they give financial and quality aspects to the effectiveness of a variety of different types of care. Then they plug in quality of life. The nature of your treatment will no longer be in the hands of your physician. It’s in the hands of the computer.”