The House of Representatives finally passed a health care reform bill. The fight over the bill has gone on for months and during that period it had been changed dozens of times compared to the original White House proposal. The bill barely passed with at 219 to 212 margin. The Senate will vote on minor changes to its version of the legislation, but those changes are expected to meet with little resistance.
The new health care programs created by the bill will insure 95% of Americans under 65, according to many experts and give 32 million American without insurance health care coverage.The bill would also help Americans who cannot afford insurance to pay for it.
The legislation is the most important change to health care in 40 years, or 100 years, depending on who is asked. It will help the hospital industry and drug companies get new patients, but at what price? Will the new patients be profitable to hospitals and bring profitable patients to pharma firms, or will regulation on prices make the new revenue a wash? It is widely assumed that the bill will hurt health insurance companies that charge rates that are deemed as being too high, but will insurance companies with reasonable rates benefit?
Will Americans without insurance be happy with their new found safety net, or will the costs of the insurance hurt them in the pocket book even with government subsidies for those payments? Will small companies pay higher fees which they do not pay now? Will they be able to afford them? Will large companies pay higher fees for "Cadillac" plans which cover the most expensive and comprehensive insurance, or will the caps on that "tax" on those benefits be so high that most firms will not be effected?
According to Bloomberg, "Health legislation passed yesterday by the U.S. House changes some rules immediately on insurance coverage while leaving much of the fight over how to remake the medical system to federal regulators, states and courts." The news agency also reports that "There's going to be a whole other round of uncertainty associated with the implementation of this. There'll be much, much more to fight on and much, much more to write on, said Sheryl Skolnick, a health-industry analyst at CRT Capital Group LLC.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department, a huge government bureaucracy, will set up specific rules to implement many of the plans contemplated in the bill. It is not clear how such an unwieldy agency will process all of the new information and programs
All of this is to say that health care reform may be a benefit to many Americans long-term, but it will be a nightmare for many American businesses to implement and that may be especially true of small and mid-sized companies that do not have human resource operations.
There are large hidden costs to health care reform which are for businesses to figure out how to implement changes and for investors to figure out which companies are winners and which will have their profits curtailed.
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