Byline: Anne Schmitt Daily Herald Business Writer
The health insurance portability law President Clinton signed last week has been widely praised for freeing individuals from job lock, but what does it mean for businesses?
The legislation largely wins high marks from business associations and insurers, although some wonder about its potential impact on health insurance premiums, particularly for individual health insurance plans.
"It broadens options for employers to provide health insurance," said Jeff Mays, spokesman for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
Some 98 percent of the chamber's 7,000-company membership provides some health benefit to employees, Mays said.
"The kinds of benefits our members provide are all across the board," Mays said. "That's why it's important to protect the options of our members."
The law also should help small companies that have been dropped or not accepted for health coverage because of a sick employee, said Howard Parker, human resources information manager at the Illinois chamber.
"It's hard for the small employer to get a group plan when he has a small group and one or two people who are sick," Howard said.
The National Association of Manufacturers views the legislation as a way of leveling the playing field, said spokeswoman Sharon Canner.
Some self-insured manufacturers do provide insurance coverage for new employees or family members with pre-existing conditions, Canner said. Others do not. Those companies that don't now but will have to under the legislation may see their health insurance costs grow.
"It may cost them initially, but it's going to even out in the end," Canner said.
How the law will affect insurance costs remains unclear, said Edward Neuschler, vice president for policy development and research for the Health Insurance Association of America in Washington D.C.
The portability provision between group health insurance plans should have little impact on premiums, Neuschler said. That's because many states already have similar requirements and group insurance plans have a pool of 150 million people over which to spread the risk. The federal legislation brings the requirement to larger and self-insured companies, …