WisBusiness: Health care ruling prompts mixed reactions from Wisconsin business community

By Brian E. Clark


One of the biggest winners in today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act is the insurance industry, according to a Milwaukee attorney who represents employers, third party administrators, brokers and benefit consultants.

“After the Obama administration, insurers are coming out on top,” said John Barlament of the Quarles and Brady law firm.

“There is a big sigh of relief from them because they were very concerned about the nightmare scenario where the individual mandate was stricken, but all the other health care rules remained and they had to cover people pre-existing conditions.”

Barlament said he is going through the fine points of the 5-4 decision, which was written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

“But our initial impression is it’s basically going to be business as usual for the entities that have to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

“For those who have taken a lot of steps to try to comply with the law over the past two-plus years, it’s a nice thought that they don’t have to go back and redo or undo everything.”

Not everyone was as sanguine as Barlament about the ruling, however.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce President/CEO Kurt R. Bauer said he believes the decision will hurt businesses of all sizes by driving up costs and lead to “massive” tax increases or a bankrupted federal government.

“The fact that a divided court upheld the constitutionality of the health care law does not make it good public policy,” Bauer said. “As Chief Justice Roberts noted in his decision, Congress, not the Supreme Court, made the policy choices under the Constitution and hopefully lawmakers will have the good sense to repeal this misguided law.”

Rebecca Hogan, director of health and human resources at WMC, said the ruling did little to clear up uncertainty over the cost of the law.

“A lot of people are saying small businesses have tax incentives to offer coverage, but those incentives are scheduled to sunset and go away,” she said. “Middle and large employers have to choose if they are going to offer coverage when the mandate goes into effect in 2014 or pay the penalty. People are worried.”

Wisconsin’s insurance commissioner, Ted Nickel, said he was disappointed with the decision and called the law “unworkable.”

http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=273414“>Echoing Gov. Scott Walker, Nickel said the state would not move forward to implement the act until after the November elections to gauge the likelihood that the law will be repealed.

“Hopefully, this disappointing decision will help galvanize support to overturn the law in Congress,” Nickel said.

Wisconsin has not set up a health insurance exchange, a key part of the law. An exchange is a set of state-regulated and standardized health care plans from which individuals may purchase health insurance eligible for federal subsidies. All exchanges must be fully certified and operational by January 1, 2014 under federal law.

If states do not create the exchanges, the federal government will run them, according to the act.