For the past several years, economic uncertainty has been the top concern facing small businesses. The No. 1 fear now is health care, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
To address the concern, experts focused on the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, during the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce 2013 Economic Summit. In an effort to educate the business community on the implications of the act, members of the state and U.S. chambers of commerce joined the president of Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital Thursday.
"Whether we like it or not, it's the law of the land. It's not going anywhere. We have to plan for it," said Jeff Lungren, of the U.S. Chamber.
Lungren, the director of the congressional and public affairs division in Washington, compared the law to the first draft of a term paper. "Parts of it don't make sense," he told about 100 people in attendance at the summit held at the Stonegate Conference & Banquet Centre in Hoffman Estates.
"If this all seems quite confusing, it is," he said.
Many local businesses are wondering if they should continue offering the same insurance they have in the past or instead send employees to shop for their own policies through an exchange, a competitive marketplace for individuals and small businesses to purchase insurance.
Laura Minzer, executive director of the Illinois Chamber's Healthcare Council, described the exchange as a "shopping mall for health insurance. The doors will fly open to the exchange on Oct. 1, 2013." She said Illinois was the first state to develop its exchange program. Every state has different options and ways to run the program.
The exchanges are designed to provide individuals and businesses a "one stop shop" to compare and buy health insurance, experts said.
The health care policy experts talked about how the Affordable Care Act will affect health care, including the way hospitals are run.
Karen Lambert, president of Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, said the hospital has launched an Accountable Care Organization as one of the first steps to comply with the legislation. ACOs are being formed, usually by hospitals, to share health information and other resources with the hope of lowering costs through better patient care coordination.
Lambert added that she is constantly learning more and more about the Affordable Care Act and its implications. "It's a challenging financial future for health care," she said.