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Health care bill insight offered at bus. meeting

Everyone’s heard the hoopla and hoorays, the rants and raves,about national health care reform.

Now, it’s time to look at the facts.

Local insurance specialist Dennis Valentine of Insurance and RiskManagers will attempt to lay out some truths and dispel some mythsabout the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Thursday at aBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce meeting specificallygeared toward small business owners. The Small Business Roundtablebegins at 8 a.m. at the Cracker Barrel restaurant on BrookwayBoulevard.

“I hope I can provide some clarity about what rules are effectivenow and which ones are not,” Valentine said. “I’m not going to tryto turn this into a soap box and air my political ideas, I’m justgoing to try to provide information on what business owners need tobe aware of.”

Valentine said the first set of new health care rules go intoeffect on Sept. 23, six months after the bill was signed byPresident Barack Obama, and the first group of regulations are “notthat onerous” on existing plans.

Rules coming to life on that date include limiting pre-existingconditions for children and covering children on family plans untilage 26. The rules affect plan years that begin on or after thedate, Valentine said, but many insurance companies are alreadyadjusting to the new regulations.

“A lot of insurance companies are coming on board and putting someof those things into their plans now to avoid confusion and gaps incoverage,” he said. “A 22-year-old that just graduated from collegewill be allowed to stay on the plan and instead of letting them gooff now and then having to add them back later on.”

Small businesses will see a tax break come into effect on Sept. 23,but neither Valentine nor anyone really knows how businesses willhandle the hard and fast rules scheduled to come online in 2014 -rules that would require businesses to offer health insurance toemployees or pay a fine to the federal government.

Many have speculated the requirement will eat up small businesses’profits and force them to close, while other businesses will findit cheaper to pay the fine rather than pick up a policy.

“That’s a business decision people are going to make,” Valentinesaid.

Valentine promised not to delve into politics at Thursday’sroundtable, but he did tender his views on the new law’s potentialeffects as he sees them from a professional standpoint.

“Ultimately, in my opinion it’s not a good bill,” he said. “There’sgoing to be some good things come out of it, but to my knowledgethere’s no one who has figured out how we’re going to pay for allthis, and there’s nothing in the bill that reduces costs.”

Hardly one month after health care reform was passed by Congress,economists at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Servicesconcluded the 10-year reform plan would cost well more than itsoriginal $1 trillion price tag and would not achieve Democrats’stated goal of controlling insurance costs. The federal DHS warnedcosts could increase further because the bill’s stipulation ofMedicare cuts may not be sustainable.

Valentine said he “can’t see any other outcome” than consumer costsincreasing.

“When insurance companies have to start covering things they don’tcover now, that will only drive their costs up and drive premiumsup,” he said.