Friday, 15 October 2010

USA Healthcare Reform – time to bring on the lawyers

I recently participated in an excellent webinar presented by the Chicago office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, a firm of attorneys.

It was my first webinar and although most of the participants were in their offices, around lunchtime - in London it was 6 pm so I could enjoy the experience in the comfort of my study with a lovely glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

The Healthcare Reform initiatives in the US continue to fascinate me and this six month update, presented by a specialist legal team was both informative and vexing. The first speaker, Leon Sequeira spoke with the gravity of a kindly physician breaking some serious news to his patient – ‘Do not base your business plan in the belief or hope that a particular part of the act will be repealed’.

Employers are racing to their legal counsel to see if they really do have to comply with the list of mandatory healthcare provisions outlined in the Act. As I mentioned in a previous blog – this is shaping up to be a crippling financial burden for many employers with more that fifty full time equivalent staff.

I suspect that in the UK, compensation and benefits directors tend to only need legal advice for pension disputes, and one off issues. But in the US, a lawyer may be their new best friend. Crossing the minefield of this 2000 page piece of legislation is a treacherous and expensive journey, when you consider that failure to comply could result in a $100 per day per employee fine!

There are several lawsuits pending in various states, questioning the legality of the mandatory elements of this Act. In a nutshell the question being asked is ‘Can congress force an employer to buy something like health insurance?’

The webinar lasted for 90 minutes but the time flew. There is still a great deal of clarification required, although in some areas the Act is highly specific. One example is the form that notice requirements must be issued – I have to congratulate another speaker, Ben Conley, for managing to say ‘culturally and linguistically appropriate’ five times without a stutter!

So the controversy rumbles on – and as employers attempt to unravel the true financial impact on their organisations, legal firms may emerge as the main winners of this particular adventure.


mp said...

I tried to join the webinar and received a prompt that it was cancelled. Now that I know it was an interesting webinar I would like to hear it again, do you know if its is available and archived online?

Finchers Consulting said...

I'll find out if this is available on line.

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