Time to learn about Affordable Care Act

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Recognizing the difficulty in knowing all the ins and outs of the Affordable Care Act, especially since it is constantly in motion as its implementation nears, the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce is giving area business owners and leaders a chance learn.

Even though implementation is almost more than nine months away, said Chamber President Rob Parks, "now is the time to learn everything you can about the Affordable Care Act so you can plan and prepare for 2014, when it goes into effect."

The chamber will host a workshop luncheon on Monday, March 25 at the Kepple Team real estate office at Keller Williams, 2426 W. Cornerstone Court in Peoria. Sponsored by Proctor Hospital, the event is from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will cost $15 for chamber members and $30 for non-members.

Laura Minzer of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and an expert on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama Care, will lead the workshop and try to help businesses decipher their obligations under the new law and understand coverage requirement and options.

Minzer, associate vice president and government affairs executive director at the state chamber, also will discuss the penalty system of the law and the status of the state health insurance exchange, which at this point Illinois does not have.

"Since we have cleared the election and the ACA has cleared the U.S. Supreme Court test, we have been getting new stuff thrown out there literally every week. There already is a lot of policy and regulations around the ACA and much to clarify, but it also changes frequently and will continue to do so until it gets implanted," Minzer said Thursday.

While the new law and the frequent changes have been a boon to health care consultants hired by companies to do the deciphering, "learning all there is to know about it takes a lot of patience. It is not an insignificant undertaking, so seminars such as this one in Peoria is important," Minzer said.

That is especially true for small companies that cannot afford to hire consultants or to have their own human resources department, Parks said. "Larger companies obviously have their own HR people but that is not true of most of our membership. Smaller companies need a better understanding and need to be better prepared to even ask the questions they need answered," she said.

She added she has referred members to the state chamber already. "This is certainly a very complex issue because it impacts everyone in one way or another. That's why we want our local businesses as knowledgeable as possible. I think it's important to know this workshop isn't only about the insurance aspects of the ACA but about companies learning to position themselves this year for what is going to hit in 2012," Parks said.

Minzer suggested that it is perhaps best to learn about the law in bits and pieces for better comprehension. "Take one bite of the apple, chew it and learn it, then take another bite. A lot of the questions we get now are of a more general nature about the law but if companies need more details than we can give we can refer them and connect them with consultants," she said.

She reiterated the ACA still is fluid and will remain so for a while because many of the requirements within it will have to be tested after implementation "to see how they play out and how realistic or unrealistic they may be. A requirement may look good on paper but not work in reality. We've already seen that; some of the more problematic portions of the law have been stripped away. I really don't think the Affordable Care Act will look the same a year from now."

Minzer said that while the Affordable Care Act is a federal health care reform law, much of the requirements have been thrown to the states to implement, including how they will set up their own health insurance exchanges to help the uninsured. "Each state can cater it to how they want it to look like or operate," she said.

Illinois does not have an exchange plan in the works, she noted. "Illinois, and a lot of other states as well, have other big problems of their own to take care of," she said.

Parks said she knows from talks and meetings with the local business community that it sees a lot of flaws in the Affordable Care Act as presently written. "Regardless of that, whether they like it or not it is going to be implemented next year. We need to provide the necessary resources for our members to learn what they need to know," she said.

To register for the workshop/luncheon call Jolene at 495-5923 or email her at jcole@chamber.h-p.org. You can also reserve a seat online at http://peoriachamber.org/event/affordable-care-act-aca.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).