As the new presidential administration continues to push forward on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies are left wondering what the future of their industry will look like. Art Wingerter, President of Buffalo-based Univera Healthcare, said even with dozens of position papers crossing his desk on what could happen, there’s no true insight into what will happen.
“I think the current administration is in a pickle,” said Wingerter. “It’s really going to be difficult for them to take away insurance from those that are insured. The high risk pools that they’re talking about creating have to be funded somehow. They haven’t figured out how they’re going to be funded yet.”
But despite the difficulty, a repeal is something Wingerter believes is necessary. He said the nation doesn’t have a tolerance for additional costs to support a healthcare law who’s numbers aren’t working.
“So the challenge is finding a way to increase, to get the younger uninsured to buy into the system. That was the single largest component that didn’t make the math work, is that the young, healthy, just didn’t join into the pools. And the penalties, the tax penalties, just weren’t significant enough to motivate them to do that.”
After hard campaigning by Donald Trump on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, now is the time where the “rubber meets the road” on what will actually be done to replace it, according to Wingerter.
In spite of his position on the repeal, Wingerter does admit the law has shown a benefit for the Western New York area.
“If you look at Erie County, alone, we’re approaching 250,000 individuals that are on Medicaid coverage, and that has grown from just over 200,000 – so a significant increase,” said Wingerter.
But while the increase in Medicaid usage has helped hospitals sustain profits, it’s proved to be challenging business for healthcare companies like Univera who don’t see the same gains.
With overall business expanded by the Affordable Care Act, Univera did hire more employees. And even though the law’s repeal is on the horizon and a potential drop in customers, Wingerter said the company won’t have to lay off workers, since its parent organization, The Lifetime Healthcare Companies, is the largest insurer in upstate New York.
“We’ve got a million-six members,” Wingerter pointed out. “100,000 members one way or the other doesn’t really change the scale of the organization that much. So I wouldn’t see that if there was a repeal, unless people were covered, that we would have any workforce issues in terms of reductions.”
But there’s no crystal ball to predict the final outcomes of the repeal. One thing Wingerter does foresee is that the “optics” of dismantling the Affordable Care Act will be a disaster.