How will Obamacare impact workers’ compensation?
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has brought some significant changes to the American insurance industry. These sweeping changes affect not only health insurance companies, but companies that provide workers’ compensation insurance as well.
Jonathan Gruber is an economics professor at the well-respected Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At a recent conference of the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), Gruber predicted that workers’ compensation insurance companies will notice that fewer claims will be filed because more Americans will be receiving health insurance under Obamacare.
However, Gruber cautioned that other factors could result in additional challenges for workers’ compensation insurance carriers. For example, an employer could offer a high-deductible health insurance plan that offers only a small provider network or a plan that limits reimbursements to health care professionals. Employees who participate in those types of plans are likely to file for workers’ compensation benefits in the event of an accident as opposed to opting for coverage under an expensive health insurance policy.
He went on to say that the challenge facing workers’ compensation insurance companies is how they can change workers’ compensation to fall in line with the new face of American healthcare.
Gruber also noted that the insurance model is moving away from large networks to smaller networks. Also, he says that high deductible policies are appropriate for people with high incomes.
Gruber said that workers’ compensation hasn’t yet caught up with those trends. “If the workers’ compensation system stays behind, it will have the broadest possible network and the lowest possible cost-sharing, and it’s going to have people migrating into it more and more,” he said.
Can workers’ compensation companies keep pace with the health insurance changes?
Gruber should know something about American healthcare and healthcare laws. He helped former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney design that state’s healthcare law, after which Obamacare was modeled. He was also a technical adviser to both President Obama and Congress during the drafting of the bill that would eventually become Obamacare.
He says that it’s too early to tell whether or not Obamacare is working.
“Both the advocates who say it’s working great are saying too much and the opponents who say it is working terribly are saying too much. We simply don’t know yet and we just need to be patient and let it work out,” he said.