At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, we know that 2013 will be a year of change for our company, our customers and the entire health insurance industry.
Like many Louisianians, we watched the debates on the national budget and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) throughout 2012. Although it looks like the immediate impact of going over the “fiscal cliff” has been averted, there are still numerous budget issues affecting the affordability of both healthcare and health insurance for Louisiana residents.
The bill passed Jan. 1 did avert the proposed 26.5% cut in Medicare reimbursement and another 2% across-the-board cut in pay to Medicare service providers. However, most experts watching the crisis agreed that bill is only a temporary and partial solution. Lawmakers will still need to deal with many other issues in the coming months, and it’s not clear exactly what tax increases and/or spending cuts will end up being passed.
This uncertainty is almost as damaging as the fiscal impact itself. Employers, especially small businesses, who don’t know the possible impact of the budget negotiations can’t plan ahead—which affects hiring, purchasing and many other aspects of the economy.
For example, Congress paid for the temporary Medicare reimbursement fix by lowering payments to hospitals. In addition, there are lingering questions about whether an 8.2% cut in non-defense spending will take place in 2013. For now, those cuts are delayed.
Clearly, it’s difficult for hospitals and the many groups that rely on them for employment and revenue to even know how to plan for the first quarter of 2013. And adding to the uncertainty for the health insurance industry, the deadline is looming for states to open online healthcare exchanges where individuals will be able to purchase health insurance for 2014. In less than 10 months these exchanges must be ready to accept millions of new insurance shoppers.
Healthcare affordability has long been one of our key goals. Because the ACA has a significant, ongoing impact on affordability, we will continue doing our best to implement it on behalf of our members in ways that improve quality while reining in costs.
We will also continue to monitor the budget negotiations extending into 2013. We will post any new and helpful information in the Healthcare Reform section of our website at www.bcbsla.com/reform.
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