As part of my preparation for our upcoming Power Breakfast event, I had a conversation with someone who is in the business of helping companies prepare for the impending health-care changes. He told me that he couldn’t believe how many executives still really didn’t know how these changes will affect their businesses. He said that with so much information and misinformation floating around, many companies have taken the “stick their head in the sand” approach, and have been putting off dealing with the impending changes. It’s complex and it’s confusing, but one thing is clear, especially after reading the answers our panelists gave to our pre-event question. This is no time to procrastinate. There are things you should be doing right now to prepare. Take a look at the panelists’ answers, and we hope you can join us to learn even more from our panelists at the Power Breakfast on Feb. 20.

- Chris Conetsky

Cliff Gold

Founding director and chief operating officer, CoOportunity Health

“Know the law. Explore your options. View health-care reform as a real opportunity. No business can ignore the Affordable Care Act. Depending on the size of your firm and the composition of your workforce, the law has major implications for you. You may face financial penalties; you may need to reshape your workplace; you might be able to capitalize on the law to vault your business forward. This is an unprecedented time to shop for health-care coverage. New options will be available, so don’t miss the chance to explore the marketplace. This is the most massive change in the health-care system since the mid-1960s. That change will spawn innovation, revolution and chaos, which insightful businesses can exploit. Those companies that view health reform as a real opportunity to re-strategize, capture value, and rethink their employee hiring, retention and benefits strategies will likely find themselves outpacing their competitors in the future.”

Sean Yolish

Vice president for information technology and insurance operations, Merit Resources Inc.

“Business owners must be completely confident that their internal staff and/or external consultants are capable of developing and executing a strategy in response to health-care reform. Fully examining each facet of the Affordable Care Act’s effect on the enterprise, in either choosing to offer health insurance to employees in 2014 and beyond or not, is critical. There will be a myriad of questions to answer in the decision making process, all of which must be scrutinized against the current and the reasonably anticipated future regulatory environment. Most important, determining if coverage under the employer mandate is applicable to the organization drives the analytical process in one of two distinct directions.”

Laura Jackson

Executive vice president, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield

“Businesses and employers need to stay focused on educating themselves and planning for the changes the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to bring to their businesses. One of the crucial pieces is reviewing the impact of the benefits and rating provisions to their employee benefit costs. This review will encourage employers to engage with their insurers, brokers, accountants and tax consultants and decide on the best course of action for 2014 and beyond. Going into mid-2013, employers will also need to communicate with their employees to ensure they understand how the ACA could impact their rates and coverage. For employers who have maintained grandfathered coverage and choose to continue to do so, it will be important to explain to their employees the differences from the reform provisions.”

Jon Shanahan

President and CEO, Businessolver Inc.

“The most important thing businesses should be doing right now to prepare for health-care reform is be evaluating whether they should offer health insurance to their employees and how that decision fits into their overall employee compensation and benefits strategy. As the inflation in health insurance costs easily outpaces wage inflation, employers large and small will need to identify how this benefit (health insurance) fits into their compensation, retention and customer engagement strategies. Each employer will need to determine how health insurance may influence employee and customer engagement with the potential business effects in mind. Jim Clifton, Chairman of Gallup, pinpointed the impact in his book The Coming Jobs War. Compared with companies in the bottom quartile of Gallup’s employee engagement database, the top quartile has: “12 percent higher customer metrics, 18 percent higher productivity, and 16 percent higher profitability.” Ultimately, if employers make a decision that negatively impacts employee engagement, it may adversely affect engagement with customers – and their bottom line.”