Area businesses unsure on effects of health care act
by Matt Shinall
Jul 01, 2012 | 1677 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Affordable Care Act was signed into law two years ago, but Thursday's 5-4 Supreme Court ruling upholding the controversial individual mandate has again brought the issue to the forefront of economic and political conversations.

With each pundit giving a different outlook on the situation, local business owners are wary of the changes to come.

Bruce Thompson, owner of The Thompson Group Allstate Agency and chairman of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce, has sensed unease from fellow business owners and has found uncertainty even in discussions with major insurance providers.

"It is an unhealthy situation right now, because it does not give the business community or even individuals a clear path to make a decision and when that happens, you have a lot of people that just kind of sit and wait. From a chamber perspective, that's not healthy for our economy. Anytime you stop moving forward, it takes that much more momentum to get going," Thompson said. "We sell Humana and we've talked preemptively to these companies to find out what this means and none of them have taken a stance because they don't know what it means yet."

With the Supreme Court's decision upholding the individual mandate as a tax, Thompson sees the burden on small business with a penalty for noncompliance as a measure that could stifle growth -- not just theoretically, but in his own business.

"I know that from a business perspective for me, if it means that I am forced into putting some of the act into place or there will be a consequence, we'll have to take a good, serious look at the number of employees we have and the amount of money we'll be able to invest in the company," Thompson said.

Also pessimistic about the projected outcome of the ACA is Cartersville physician Tim Ryan. Owner of The Physician's Practice, Ryan provides primary medical care while accepting no third-party payment. The Physician's Practice receives no payments from insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, worker's compensation or employers.

"I don't take insurance. The reason is even more philosophical than just Medicare and Medicaid, it's a third-party problem. I feel like when you have a third party paying the bill separate from the patient paying the bill, you have this triangle that is sometimes frustrating and hard to manage," Ryan said. "I feel like if my patients pay me directly, it keeps me the most honest and it keeps my prices the lowest and I can deliver the best care that way. I think the reason health care is so overpriced in this country is because the third party is too big. We rely on insurance too much, so I think the solution, ironically, is to have less insurance."

Healthcare reform as currently legislated will further complicate a system Ryan feels is choked with regulation. His vision for a solution is a free market with less government intrusion where competition can flourish, the expanded range of options would help solve problems of patients with pre-existing conditions. For the uninsured due to cost, Ryan feels the control should be localized with state or regional health care programs.

"The law is well intentioned to give health care access to everyone, but the burden of regulation is so high, compliance is very high and it just makes the system grind to a halt. It is very frustrating for doctors, not just for reimbursement, but just for practically seeing patients. I think it's not going to be good for doctors or patients," Ryan said. "If you get the regulation out of it and let the market work, you'd have a product that is a lot better -- it's never going to be a perfect product -- but you'd have a product that is a lot better.

"Right now, you actually have limited insurance choices. You only have a handful of insurance available to you anywhere because of so many regulations. If they remove some of those regulations, you'd have a lot more competition, a lot more products out there people could choose from."

Due to rising regulations and growing bureaucracy, Ryan expects to see fewer doctors enter the field of medicine and hopes more follow his lead.

"I think over time, fewer people will go into medicine because it's not rewarding. Not rewarding financially? Maybe, but also, just your daily work is not rewarding when you have to deal with this bureaucracy," Ryan said. "I think, long term, if the bureaucracy continues to grow in the federalized-type central bureaucracy, you'll see fewer and fewer doctors. Or, I hope you'll see more practices like me where they sort of opt out of the system and have a truly private practice directed at the patients and with that system I think you'll see improved satisfaction and lower costs."

Cartersville Medical Center parent company Hospital Corporation of America submitted a prepared statement after the Supreme Court ruling.

"We will continue to work with patients, payors and the government to ensure a smooth transition as the provisions of the law are enacted. We are pleased that millions of Americans will have coverage for better access to vital medical services, preventive care and acute care," HCA stated.

HCA, a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, has gained 14.6 percent since the ruling with a $26.55 Thursday opening and closing at $30.43 on Friday.

To read the ACA in full, visit www.health care.gov/law/full.