Hill Group CEO Brussalis weighs in on health law’s impact on business

Court’s decision on health law being closely watched:   click here

Pittsburgh Business Times by Paul J. Gough, Web Producer
Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The drama as the Supreme Court hears arguments about 2010 health care law is being watched carefully in the Pittsburgh region by businesses and others.

Tuesday was a second day of debate about the Affordable Care Act, and in particular the government’s requirement that most people carry some form of insurance and facing a penalty if they don’t. That individual mandate, central to much of the health care law, is being challenged by states and the National Federation of Independent Business that say it’s unconstitutional.

“The impact of this decision will affect everyone’s lives,” said Kevin Shivers, Pennsylvania state director of the NFIB.

NFIB contends that the entire law should be thrown out because the individual mandate is an unprecedented burden to require individuals to enter into costly private contracts for health insurance.

“The intent of this law rests squarely on the individual mandate,” Shivers said. “If it is thrown out, this law can’t survive on the weight of the other legs.”

The Supreme Court’s decision, expected before the end of June, could upend the requirement to obtain insurance that is scheduled to take effect in 2014. It’s unclear what the high court’s decision could do to other aspects of the law that have already taken effect, including the extension of health insurance benefits to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 and more insurance options for people with pre-existing conditions.

One Pittsburgh employer, Downtown-based actuarial and retirement plan administrator Dunbar, Bender & Zapf Inc., hasn’t seen much in the way of affects yet from those changes. President Mark Dunbar said that there have been a few employees who have put their children back on their insurance policies, but it hasn’t affected the company’s health care costs so far. As an employer of 53, Dunbar, Bender & Zapf are keeping an eye on what will happen with the health care law, but there’s a more pressing issue in the Pittsburgh region.

“We’re waiting to see what happens (with the Supreme Court),” Dunbar said. “But frankly, in Pittsburgh, the more crucial question is what happens with Highmark Highmark Latest from The Business Journals Follow this company and UPMC UPMC Latest from The Business Journals Follow this company .”

Gov. Tom Corbett brought the two warring sides together for a one-year extension of the contract, but Dunbar said that he’d like to see a longer-term resolution. The company has Highmark insurance.

The uncertainty over the federal healthcare law has been detrimental to businesses in the experience of Chris W. Brussalis, president and CEO of The Hill Group The Hill Group Latest from The Business Journals Follow this company management consultants in Carnegie.

“Business requires stability, particularly with any regulation, so that it can plan and allocate its resources to the benefit of its mission and constituents,” he said. “Employers and healthcare organizations both have been expending considerable resources planning for contingencies in this uncertain healthcare regulatory environment. Those resources could have been allocated to more productive activities and investments.”

Brussalis said that many companies he works with have been waiting to make investments and put into place growth plans based on that uncertainty.

But no matter what happens with the Supreme Court decision on the health care law, Dunbar, Bender & Zapf and another southwestern Pennsylvania employer said that it won’t make a difference: They’ll continue to offer health insurance.

“We consider our employees a valuable asset and provide health care as part of their overall compensation package,” said Samuel A. Bennardo, president of AUMA Actuators Inc. AUMA Actuators Inc. Latest from The Business Journals Follow this company in Canonsburg. “We use UPMC and plan to continue to do so regardless of the outcome of the case before the Supreme Court.”