Belleville hospital leaders: New health care laws reduce cost, increase efficiency

News-DemocratJuly 18, 2013 

The leaders of two Belleville hospitals believe the nation's new health care law will create better service.

Memorial Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Turner was one of four panelists participating in a health care forum held Thursday night at Belleville West High School. Turner said the new law, or "Obamacare" after President Barack Obama's support for the new policy, will help improve how health care is delivered as well as the cost.

"It's all about bending the cost curve," Turner told the audience of about 75 people. "It's about expanding the access to health care and hopefully it's also about expanding access to care."

Maryann Reese, president and chief executive officer at Elizabeth's Hospital in Belleville, said the United States spends the most on health care with below average outcomes. She said the nation spent $900 billion on defense but $1.4 trillion on health care. She said the costs of health care need to be reassessed.

"We are the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't provide health care to all of our citizens," Reese said. "We are the only industrialized nation in the world that you can become bankrupt if you get sick."

Now, beginning Jan. 1, 2015, businesses with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees must provide affordable health care insurance for full-time employees. The new law is complex and Turner said it has intended consequences, but realizes that it may have unintended consequences, such as limited the number of hours small businesses provide employees.

Those small businesses that do not follow the new law face a penalty. According to estimates from Greensfelder Attorneys at Law in St. Louis, an employer with an average of 2,400 hours of part-time work a month in 2012 would have 20 full-time equivalent employees. If they also have 30 full-time employees, they have 50 full-time equivalent workers, and must provide affordable health insurance for full-time employees or face a penalty.

Fellow panelist and health benefits consultant Brent Pieper, of Yaekel & Associates Insurance Services Inc. in Belleville, said those employees whose employers already provide health care coverage should not witness any changes as a result of the new law. Pieper said small employers may be forced to reduce deductibles, which could lead to increases in out-of-pockets maximum costs. He said employees need to check with their employer and physicians.

"One of the best ways for you to help with your health care is to stay in touch and be a participant with your doctors and be a participant with your hospitals," Pieper said.

John Bayalis, regional director of the Healthcare Leadership Council in Atlanta, said consumers need to educate themselves. He suggested those in the audience to go online to www.becoveredillinois.org and www.healthcare.gov.

"You need to know where you can go for more information once you leave this auditorium tonight," Bayalis said. "Empower yourselves with information."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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