Columbus prepares for arrival of Obamacare

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - We're in the final stretch before the Patient Protection Affordability Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, the much anticipated platform of the President's election campaign, begins taking its final shape.

October 1 is the day when the new health insurance marketplace officially opens.  That means big businesses and individual people alike will be shopping, looking for deals, and trying to figure out where they fit into the evolving structure.

An event held at the Columbus Trade Center Thursday shed light on the complicated issue that has been a subject of intense political debate.  The healthcare symposium was a joint effort between the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the Society of Human Resource Management.

"We have some small business owners and we have some healthcare providers here who want to learn what the impact is and what are the next steps in the implementation process," said Colin Martin of the Chamber.

"I hope that this healthcare reform works," said Tibi Westbrook of the Columbus Clinic. "Nobody knows right now, but everyone should be insured."

Experts were on hand to explain what new forms are required and what choices will be best for each health insurance customer.

Self-funding is one of the options available to employers who want to set their own money aside to pay for employee healthcare in lieu of buying expensive insurance plans.  It's a strategy used by businesses betting on their workers staying healthier than average.

"Traditionally, self-funding has been too risky for small groups to undertake, but now, because of Obamacare, several insurance companies have made improvements that make it possible and very attractive," said employee benefit consultant, Billy Whitley.

Also in attendance was notable healthcare analyst Brian Klepper.

"The healthcare law is not really going to do much to address cost," Klepper said. "It is going to expand access to coverage."

Some of Klepper's remarks put the industry's status quo on the defensive.

"Healthcare cost, which is pretty uncontrolled, has become the greatest single threat to the national economic security.  We're displacing funds, infrastructure replacement, and a lot of things because we're spending so much on healthcare and a lot of it is completely unnecessary and inappropriate."

Klepper argues that business owners should get organized and use their purchasing decisions to help bring the process to a higher state of honesty.

"We really have to have another effort that is less driven by lobbying, and is more grassroots," said Klepper. "And the only way for that to happen is for employers, as main purchasers in this process, they've got the center of power.  They can come together and work to change this."

He suggests the buyers of corporate policies in Georgia visit to get more information about the changes he advocates.

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