The issue of healthcare reform is on the minds of many in the business community, especially as it relates to cost, access, and implementation.
Decoding the new federal legislation was the topic at hand as approximately 50 community and business leaders convened recently at Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation to discuss the impact healthcare reform will have on the community.
The Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum in partnership with Turner Construction and the Miami Children’s Hospital and Foundation.
Panelists included Manny Fernandez, vice president of Commercial Accounts for BenTrust Financial; former State Rep. Rene Garcia; David Stoots, senior account executive, Aetna; Dr. M. Narendra Kini, president and CEO, Miami Children’s Hospital, and Dr. Fernando Valverde, CEO, FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine Health Care Network. Hugo Arza, Esq., chair of the chamber’s Business and Government Affairs Committee, served as moderator.
The forum was opened by Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation president Lucy Morillo-Agnetti, who stressed the importance of making children’s healthcare a priority in the South Florida community.
Panelists provided background on their respective specialty areas and each agreed that healthcare reform will have both a positive and negative impact on the business community. All praised the elimination of the pre-existing condition clause and the increase in age to 26 for children to remain on their parents’ insurance plans. However, more critical comments were reserved for other aspects of the new legislation.
Timing for the forum was critical for the business community in that parts of the newly passed bill become law in late September of this year, six months from its original passage date. Moreover, many business leaders already are seeing increases in costs as insurance renewals come due, a significant impact as the economy slowly continues to recover.
Dr. Kini spoke of the lack of health screening measures in the bill, which could be used to help prevent chronic illnesses. He also noted the shortage of sub-specialists, particularly in pediatric medicine, which he said is partially to blame for Florida’s ranking as 49th in healthcare.
Dr. Valverde agreed on the need for training additional sub-specialists and said Florida International University’s medical school hopes to help solve the problem.
David Stoots suggested insurance costs will rise due to the new laws and mentioned Aetna and its counterparts have set up task forces to interpret and understand the new laws in order to best serve their clients. Other insurance providers in attendance, including Blue Cross Blue Shield and AvMed, also have addressed the potential changes in legislation.
Rep. Rene Garcia urged those in the attendance to come together and develop a viable solution to improve healthcare options. He challenged the business community to hold him and his elected colleagues accountable in the upcoming legislative session.
Manny Fernandez pointed out the importance of teaching people how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and the need for greater dollars for preventative care, with a stronger focus on wellness.
The forum sparked much discussion, and it was clear that this is only the beginning of the conversation as the political climate continues to shift heading into the November election cycle.
The Coral Gables Chamber will continue to offer programs that keep small and medium-sized businesses informed on those issues that most directly impact their employees and their bottom line.