Highmark CEO Earley talks health care reform

PARKERSBURG -Change is coming to the nation’s health care systems.

How those changes affect individuals, their insurance coverage and the overall health care system is still being determined, Fred Early, president and CEO of Highmark West Virginia, said.

Earley addressed the Parkersburg Rotary for about 45 minutes Monday, discussing the impact of the health care reform efforts and how they will affect citizens. He said the reforms will impact almost everyone, but the significance of that impact depends on a host of factors related to insurance coverage.

“The simple, straight-forward answer,” Earley said. “It depends.”

Almost everyone will be affected by the reforms:

* Those insured by large-group employers (more than 50 employees).

* Those insured by small-group employers (50 or fewer employees).

* Medicaid or Medicare recipients.

* And those who are self-insured.

Earley said the lion’s share of reforms will go into effect in 2014. Some will roll out this fall. Some of the most dramatic change will be to small-group insurance plans for companies that insure 50 or fewer employees.

In the meantime, the insurance industry is trying to adjust. He said government officials have “opened the floodgates” on reform bills and their affects.

Insurance officials are still trying to figure things out and get a handle on things.

Earley only had time for a few questions following his remarks. To help, he provided bookmarks identifying Highmark’s website www.highmarkonhealthreform.com. The website is committed to providing answers to reform laws and how they impact individuals and their families.

Earley said people don’t shop for health services like they do with other consumer goods purchases. He said changes must be made.

“We have to build a more cost-effective system or it will collapse under its own weight,” he said. “Everybody will be on a Medicaid-type system. Nobody wants that.”