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Health Care Reform Takes Center Stage at SHRM Event

June 8, 2012

With the U.S. Supreme Court expected to rule on the fate of health care reform this month, HR consultant Gary Kushner is not taking chances as he prepares his presentation on what employers need to do under reform at the upcoming Society for Human Resource Management conference.

The 2012 Annual Conference & Exposition takes place in Atlanta from June 24-27—around the time the high court is expected to make its decision.

"I've got contingencies for three scenarios," says Kushner, president and CEO of Kushner & Co., a benefits consulting firm in Portage, Michigan. "One presentation is written on the assumption that the law is moving forward, the second is based on the court saying that the individual mandate is not constitutional but the rest of the law is fine, and the third is if they throw the whole thing out. I'm doing my Boy Scout best to be prepared."

Depending on the Supreme Court's decision, Kushner predicts that his Monday afternoon session, "Health Care Reform Update: Six Things You Need to Think About (and Do) Now" will either be "one of the best-attended sessions at the conference or the worst."

When he gave a presentation on health care reform at SHRM's 2010 gathering three months after the law was signed, 3,000 people attended and hundreds were turned away, Kushner says. "I've been presenting at SHRM for 27 years and that was the biggest session I've ever seen. Interest was high."

Last year 13,875 people attended SHRM's conference in Las Vegas and about 14,000 are expected for this year's gathering.

While Kushner says his session may not draw huge crowds, even if the law is struck down HR will have a few things to do.

"You've already implemented two years' worth of provisions, so now what? Do you continue coverage for adult children? What about pre-existing limitations? If the concept of grandfathering goes away, what impact does that have on your plan design?"

SHRM organizers are aware that the court's decision could take center stage at the conference, but for now they have no plans to do anything differently. "We've talked about it, but we're just watching developments," says a SHRM representative.

Typically, SHRM's conference agenda reflects the economic, political and other realities of the workplace, and this year is no different. Several sessions are scheduled on the topics of health care reform, social media, aging workers and domestic partner benefits.

Also, for the first time SHRM is teaming up with the U.S. Labor Department to offer a half-day manufacturing summit to address the skills gap in manufacturing. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is expected to attend but has not yet confirmed, according to the spokeswoman.

In addition to Gladwell, other keynote speakers include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, journalist Tom Brokaw and management guru Jim Collins.

Rita Pyrillis is Workforce Management's senior writer. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

Workforce Management, June 2012, p. 22 -- Subscribe Now!