November 29, 2012

Maine Chamber forum tackles Affordable Care confusion

Speakers for the most part agreed that some type of state-run health insurance exchange would better for business than leaving the exchange up to the federal government.

By Paul Koenig
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Joel Allumbaugh, of the National Worksite Benefit Group, speaks on Wednesday morning during a Maine Chamber of Commerce sponsored event on federal health care reform on Wednesday morning, at the Augusta Civic Center.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

Katie Mahoney, of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, speaks on Wednesday morning during a Maine Chamber of Commerce sponsored event on federal health care reform, on Wednesday morning at the Augusta Civic Center.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Graham said he still thinks Maine could implement a state health insurance exchange before the federally-run exchange goes into effect in 2014.

Allumbaugh's presentation largely focused on problems in the law, including what he said is a failure to tackle the real issue at hand -- the rising cost of health care.

He also said that he has done case studies on some businesses showing the employers would save money if they took the penalty for not offering health insurance rather than paying for their employees' plans.

"I actually think that an alarming number of companies are just going to stop offering health insurance," he said.

Neither Graham nor Mahoney shared Allumbaugh's views that the law will cause large numbers of employers to drop their employees' health insurance coverage.

Graham said this didn't happen in Massachusetts after the state passed similar health care reform in 2006.

"Our experience there is that our employers did not get out of the coverage game in large numbers," he said. But he did acknowledge that there are some differences in the laws and the country's economy when both were passed.

Mahoney said the law will affect different size and types of businesses in different ways. Some businesses with older employees may benefit from the law, while businesses with a younger work force could incur higher costs, she said.

One possible consequence is the law could encourage businesses to make full-time employees part-time to avoid having to buy insurance, Mahoney said.

"That would be a very sad repercussion in this economy," she said.

Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, who attended the presentation, said it was a helpful look at what the law contains. Unlike most Republicans, Saviello voted in favor of the state health insurance exchange in April.

But Saviello said he thinks the provisions in the entire law will be more costly than most people expect, for both individuals and the government.

"Conceptually I'm not against it, but the devils are in the details," he said.

Paul Koenig -- 621-5663


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