The promises and pitfalls of national health care reform are of vital concern for small and medium-size employers, said a Brookings Institution expert who plans to present a keynote speech at Grand Valley State University Thursday.
The availability of a public plan and health insurance exchanges are crucial components, particularly for those who work for businesses with fewer than 50 employees, said Kalahn Taylor-Clark, an expert on disparity in health care. She will speak and moderate a health care debate as part of GVSU’s free, two-day summit on health care reform.
“The question about the public option is a huge one,” said Taylor-Clark, who holds a doctorate in health policy and political analysis from Harvard University. “That is, then, who will regulate how insurance companies then develop benefit packages and premiums? How will those costs be regulated with a lack of a public option?
“We can provide care, but there are certainly people that may not be able to afford it, so we’ve really got to focus a lot on the financing of this.”
The shape of mandates — requirements that a business provide access to health insurance or that an individual obtain insurance, or a combination, with monetary penalties for those who don’t comply — is another important point for business, she added.
“For smaller businesses, this could be a major problem, particularly if there isn’t a public option into which their employees can go,” Taylor-Clark said. “Employers with 50 employees or less may be burdened more, may have more difficultly in paying some sort of match for their premiums of their employees,” unless a provision allows small employers to opt out and send their workers into the market for individual health insurance.
In that case, “the health information exchanges are going to be extraordinarily important to provide individuals with information that is not only understandable, but useable. … Are these exchanges providing consumers with information that really allows them to make the best choice for their coverage?”
Should reform evolve so that insurance exchanges come under oversight of the state rather than the federal government, the onus will fall on state policymakers to ensure that consumers are well informed, Taylor-Clark added.
“We really need to have a consumer focus for all of the efforts that are under way,” she said.
The GVSU summit is set for Thursday and Friday at the Allendale campus as well as the Pew Campus in downtown Grand Rapids. The event brings national and local health care experts together to discuss health care reform and its potential impact.
Taylor-Clark starts the two-day summit with a keynote speech at 2:30 p.m. at the Cook-DeWitt Center on the Allendale campus. At 7 p.m. Thursday in Loosemore Auditorium on the Pew Campus, Taylor-Clark will moderate “The Debate,” which features Thomas Miller, American Enterprise Institute; Michael Tanner, CATO Institute; and Timothy Noah, senior writer for Slate magazine.
Friday’s schedule begins at 9 a.m. at Loosemore Auditorium, with a keynote speech from Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Health Care Research and Transformation at the University of Michigan. The first panel discussion, “What Do We Get Out of Reform?” follows at 9:30 a.m. The second panel will consider “How Much Does It Cost?” at 11:30 a.m. Panelists include: David Paradis, former executive director of the Michigan Osteopathic Association; Vondie Woodbury, Muskegon Community Health Project; Anne Rosewarne, Michigan Health Council; Steve Borders, GVSU professor of health administration; David Blair, CEO of Advantage Health, the physician practice associated Saint Mary’s Health Care; and Mark Lemoine, director of system government affairs for Spectrum Health.
Gleaves Whitney, director of GVSU’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, said the summit’s aim is to bring the complex issues in the health care debate to a more manageable level. The event will attract health care providers, public policy makers, business owners and interested citizens, he said.
The event is sponsored by the Hauenstein Center, College of Community and Public Service, College of Health Professions, Kirkhof College of Nursing, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Women’s Center and Department of Political Science. Also sponsoring are Saint Mary’s, Spectrum Health, Advantage Health and the Gerald R. Ford Foundation and Presidential Museum.
A research director, Taylor-Clark leads the Racial and Ethnic Healthcare Equity Initiative in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s High Value Health Care Project, part of the Engelberg Center of Healthcare Reform. Local health care planning agency Alliance for Health is participating with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s health disparities project as part of its initiative Aligning Forces for Quality. Taylor-Clark also holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Tufts University.