Many attendees at a discussion in Minneapolis on Monday about how health reform legislation will affect their businesses left with even more questions after finding out the law's details are still evolving.
About 170 people from Minnesota's health care sector came to a briefing session, organized by LifeScience Alley, a Minnesota-based trade organization that represents more than 600 health care companies and organizations.
After four hours of information and analysis from representatives of medical device makers, insurers, and health care providers, the bottom line was that the federal health care reform law is here, it's huge, and it will have an impact throughout the health sector.
LAW'S DETAILS STILL EVOLVING
Just how and when isn't so easy to forecast with much certainty. The law's details are still evolving in the government's so-called rule-making process and that process is where much of the legislation's effects will take shape.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., told the group that it was important that Minnesota's industries have a voice and a seat at the table of the rule-making process. She said that though the law is passed, many of the law's details are up to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius.
"There are a lot of things in this bill that says the secretary shall, the secretary will, the secretary may, these are rule-makings and there will be opportunities for comments," she said. "There's already been some decisions made about keeping kids on coverage until they're 26 so that's where a lot of the action is."
Klobuchar also told the group to expect changes in the legislation as time goes on because no bill is perfect when passed. But she said speed is not the key to make sure the law is implemented correctly.
Until the rules are fleshed out, business and providers must cope with uncertainty about how they'll be affected by provisions that are yet to be written down.
MEDICAL DEVICE TAX CAUSES UNEASINESS
For many medical device makers, there is an uneasiness of how the law will shape out in the end, said Rob Clark, a media relations specialist with Medtronic. He said one major issue is how the industry will be affected by a device tax expected to generate $20 billion dollars over 10 years.
"How do we absorb the tax and continue to employ people and innovate and keep those jobs around it?" Clark said.
Any information about the health care law is helpful, said Tim Anderson, president of MedSpira, a one-year-old company that employs eight people in Minneapolis and helps bring medical inventions to the commercial market.
"There's been a lot of information and disinformation that's gone out," he said. "It's very good for us to hear it from the people that have influence into the policy and really zero in on what's really happening and how it's likely to affect us and how soon."
"A HUGE OPPORTUNITY"
One of the committee members of LifeScience Alley, Gary Jader operates a small medical consulting business, called InRoads. He told the crowd at the end of the meeting that the new law is really a positive for businesses, particularly those that develop new health care products and services.
"I'm really excited! Listen, there are 32 million new people that have to get care. Now all those people need skin protectant, implantable devices, disposables of all kinds," Jader said. "This is a huge opportunity for all of us!"
But it's uncertain if Minnesota's medical device industry will benefit much from the millions of new people who gain insurance under the law. Some industry watchers say most of the sector's likely customers already have insurance through government programs like Medicare.
LifeScience Alley says it will continue to put on more forums about health care and medicine, including a gubernatorial debate in mid-October.