Health care firms taking action as reform trickles

Geoff Pickle, Web Editor

In any health care discussion these days, health reform is bound to be a topic of conversation.

With the passage of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March and recent implementation of several of its elements, the rubber is meeting the road for health care professionals.

Some companies and citizens are responding positively to the changes. Others are wary, while yet others have simply turned tail and ran. Some might not even have noticed.

Springfield Business Journal has joined in with the other journals and newspapers covering the flurry of health care reform news and changes.

One noticeable bit was the acquisition of the Sisters of Mercy Health System subsidiary Mercy Health Plans by Bethesda, Md.-based Coventry Health Care. The sale finalized Oct. 1.

Another, which affected SBJ personally, was the announcement that Des Moines, Iowa-based Principal Financial Group was dropping its medical insurance coverage. Principal, SBJ’s current group health plan provider, has begun offering renewal options for its clients through UnitedHealthcare.

These are just two examples among a cross section of others across the country.

During SBJ’s 12 People You Need to Know event on Oct. 12, SBJ Editor Eric Olson spoke with Dr. David Anderson, a urologist and robotic surgeon at CoxHealth affiliate Ferrell-Duncan Clinic. Beyond offering a fascinating look into the emerging world of robotic surgery, the conversation eventually (perhaps inevitably) turned to health reform.

Anderson said he is concerned about health care reform on two levels, both of which affect patients.

He said with more people receiving health care, it spreads already finite resources even further, which could directly and adversely affect his program and others in the country.

And with expected pay decreases for doctors across the country due to changes in federal reimbursements, incentives for bright medical students and great doctors are waning, he said.

Anderson said the common perception that doctors are overpaid and can take pay decreases is misleading.

“They don’t necessarily recognize that I spent 13 years learning how to do this,” he said. “From a physician’s standpoint, (health reform) is a little scary.”

Anderson said some physicians might start to look elsewhere for jobs, which he recognized as a bleak outlook.

Anderson has been approached by television stations to work as a health expert source, following CoxHealth TV spots that ran featuring him.

“If Oprah called, I’d probably answer the phone,” he said jokingly.

Anderson pointed to 2014 as an important, make-or-break year for health care. It is the year when large changes – such as an increase in national eligibility for Medicaid and the inability for insurers to deny coverage because of a person’s medical condition – will take effect.

All kidding aside, Anderson seemed hopeful that people will still have their doctors when 2014 comes around.

Whether the changes brought on by health care reform will ultimately lead to bliss, pain or more of the same, no one can truly say, but I’m sure we’ll all be waiting with bated breath.

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