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February 10, 2013

Affordable Care Act here to stay

NORMAN — Like it or not, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay, attorney Karen Rieger told Norman Chamber of Commerce members this past week. The Supreme Court upheld it, President Barack Obama was re-elected, and businesses and individuals need to be ready.

“There’s nothing that would appear to stop the Affordable Care Act at this point,” said Rieger, whose practice includes mostly health care clients. “We have to forge ahead.”

The chamber’s luncheon panel on the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — Understanding the Changes and Business Implications” was hosted Thursday at the Chamber office. Panelists included Rieger, with Crowe & Dunlevy, Kelley Grace, CPA with Eide Bailly LLP, Tim McFall of INSURICA — Agar-Ford-Jarmon & Muldrow Insurance, and Norman Regional Health System President and CEO David Whitaker.

Gov. Mary Fallin declined federal money and refused to set up a state-sponsored insurance exchange, but Rieger said, “We’ll have a federal exchange in Oklahoma.”

The Oklahoma attorney general filed a lawsuit challenging the obligation of Oklahoma employers to pay penalties for insurance purchased by employees through the federal exchange available in Oklahoma. That lawsuit challenges the availability of tax credits for individuals and employers.

Since there is no state exchange, there will be no tax credits. Therefore, employers should be exempt for the penalties, the AG argues. The feds say Oklahoma has no case.

“The government has filed a motion to dismiss,” Rieger said. That case is pending, so businesses will need to “stay tuned” for what comes next.

Grace said there are 46 million to 54 million uninsured people representing 16 percent of the population, which is what got the state to the point where lawmakers intervened. The highest rate of uninsured is in the 19-to-29 age group. Additionally, 25 million more are underinsured.

A new law allowing dependent children to stay on a parent’s plan until age 27 may help alleviate the problem with the uninsured in that age group, Grace said.

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