Sunset or Sunrise for Obamacare?
Here we are on "Government Shutdown Eve." I thought it appropriate that I get back to my task of outlining not only the pros and cons of the Affordable Care Act, but also its potential impacts on music therapy. I will be presenting regarding different aspects of Obamacare at two different sessions of the 2013 National Conference of the American Music Therapy Association this November in Jacksonville, Florida. I will continue to post on various developments over the next few weeks in the run up to our national conference. I hope you will join in the reading and the discussion!
Let's start with one of the most important ways I think the new law could impact music therapy services. Music therapy in the last decade has made huge strides in becoming part of the wellness industry. Music assisted relaxation, community drum circles and music-based team-building for corporate programs are now common across the country.
In June 2013, new rules and guidelines were released regarding wellness programs in the workplace. Basically, Obamacare is promoting employer-based wellness programs by providing guidelines for discounts and punishments for employee participation in wellness programs.
Beginning in January 2014, employers will be able to increase insurance premiums for certain employee groups such as smokers, but will be able to offer up to a 30% discount for employees who decrease their cholesterol or participate in health seminars or exercise programs.
This is a huge change for employers! Most of the wellness programs already in existence were voluntary programs set up by large corporations to decrease company-wide medical costs. Now these programs will be part of the law. This is a potentially huge new market for music therapy! Since music therapy is already well-positioned in the wellness market, we should look for more companies to start wellness programs in order to take advantage of the money-saving incentive contained in the new law.
Although music therapy is not specifically mentioned in some of the approved wellness incentive programs, the regulations do allow for rewards for participation in exercise programs and "educational seminars." Music therapy based activities and instruction will fit perfectly into these roles! In addition, music therapy in corporate wellness programs can easily be done in cost-effective group settings.
Here are two places you can find additional readings regarding the effect of Obamacare on wellness programs:
Nolo.com and CNBC.
And here is a link to the actual government regulations regarding wellness programs (dry reading, but just in case you want the details!):
Incentives for Nondiscriminatory Wellness Programs in Group Health Plans
In addition, here are the links to my primer lessons regarding Obamacare: