LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The message at Thursday's healthcare luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Commerce was that it's complicated.
A panel of people from the Healthcare and Insurance industries gave their perspective on the Healthcare and Reform Bill, and tried to answer questions from the audience. they could lay out what will change as far as coverage, but they could not answer several questions about how to pay for the plan.
"In this hand I hold everything I know about this bill. In this hand I hold everything I do not know," said Cannon Allen, an insurance agent who participated in the panel discussion.
Dozens of local business owners and insurance agents like George Keeling went to the Chamber of Commerce healthcare luncheon with some big questions. "What is in the bill, what is it really going to mean for us, and is it going to solve most of our problems for healthcare reform?" he asked. The panel answered some of those questions, like what coverage it provides.
By the end of this year, preventative care will be covered, insurance companies cannot refuse coverage for pre-existing conditions for children under 19 years of age, they must cover dependents up to age 26, and there will be no lifetime maximum caps on coverage.
By 2014, insurance companies cannot refuse coverage to anyone for pre-existing conditions, and people will have guaranteed issue and renewal on all policies.
The panelists agree these changes are good for many people, but they worry about how the government will pay for the new plan, and that it might be really expensive for business owners.
"How it's going to be paid for is what is really critically misunderstood or not understood yet, or even found out, or even designed how it's going to be paid for," said Keeling.
They also worry doctors will quit accepting Medicaid and Medicare because the payouts will drop, which would lead to fewer doctors and longer wait times. So, while they think there are plenty of good intentions, many Lubbock business leaders left the lunch still weary of what will actually come from the reform.
The panelists say businesses with 50 or more employees or equivalents must provide insurance for their employers or face penalties.
The bill provides an incentive tax credit to small businesses with less than 25 employees who provide coverage. "That is one good, beneficial piece that occurred in the law, so we're working very hard to make sure that all the smaller business owners know that this tax credit is available," said Beth Ashmore, an insurance agency owner who led the panel discussion.
The Lubbock Chamber of Commerce has provided more information about what the healthcare changes mean for small business owners. Click on any of the links below for more information.