Earlier this week, I attended the Capital Conference of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) in Washington DC. This conference was attended by almost 1,000 health insurance agents from all 50 states. The purpose of the conference is to be briefed on the changing landscape of the Health Reform Law (PPACA), and to advocate for solutions that will improve the law for our Clients.
Here are a few bullet points regarding what was discussed, and how we hope to make the situation better for our clients.
Repeal of the Health Reform?
My read is that about 99% of those in attendance would be glad to see Health Reform Repealed. However, reality has taken root that unless and until the Republican party controls the Presidency, and large majorities of both houses of Congress, there is virtually no chance that repeal will occur. For this reason, NAHU has moved on to advocating for fixes and improvements in the current law. The term “REPAIR Obamacare” was heard several times.
Effectiveness of Health Reform?
The general consensus was that Health Reform is not helping to reduce costs, and increase access. Agents shared first-hand war stories about how Health Reform has caused rates to sore, coverage levels to become degraded, polices to cancel, and confusion to reign.
Advocating to Improve HealthReform Law:
Following the general sessions, the attendees went to Capital Hill to meet with our Senators and Congressmen to advocate for solutions that would be in the best interest of our clients. Here are a few of the things that we discussed:
Meetings with Congressmen:
I was able to meet with 3 Congressmen from Ohio Steve Chabbott, Jim Jordan, and Dave Joyce.
As Republicans, all three would gladly support repeal of the law. They were also quite frustrated by the President’s 28 unilateral changes in the law.
However, they also understand that repeal is not feasible without control of the Senate and the Presidency.
The Congressmen were open to making minor changes, and supportive of the changes that we proposed.
These meetings occurred in the congressional offices, and included approximately 5 NAHU members each.
So what is next?
We continue to stay on the cutting edge, helping our clients, and advocating for positive change that will help our clients, and the system at large.
So what happens if you do not get health insurance by the Obamacare open-enrollment deadline of March 31 of this year? What if you decide that you want to buy an individual policy on May 1, or June 1? What happens then? You are LOCKED OUT. That is what.
A little known fact is that you will be out of luck. Under the Obamacare law, the only time a person can get individual coverage on or off the government exchange, is during the Open Enrollment Period. There is a small exception to this rule that allows people to immediately gain coverage through a qualifying event (marriage, birth of a child, death of a family member, adoption, divorce, loss of coverage….).
As a result, regular Americans who want to buy an individual health insurance plan will need to wait until open enrollment every year, with January 1 being the only effective date for new coverage. This year, if someone decides that they want coverage on April 2, they will not be able to get it until January 1 of 2015. Next year, if they decide they want coverage on January 16, they will need to wait until January 1,2016.
Before Obamacare this process was not restricted. In most states like Ohio, anyone could purchase individual health insurance any time during the year. Of course insurance companies were free to accept or reject people, rider out pre-existing condition, or impose pre-existing condition waiting periods.
Regardless, it used to be that healthy people could purchase health insurance any time during they year, whenever they are ready, and willing to pay for it.
This brings to mind the old quote “Governments are good at only two things. Creating surpluses of things people don’t want, and creating shortages of things that they do want.”
Today, the Obama Administration announced that employer with fewer than 100 employees would receive an additional 12 month grace period which will extend the employer mandate penalty delay to 1/1/2016.
By providing an additional grace period for employers with less than 100 employees, this creates the incentive for businesses to have 99 or fewer employees, to reduce their staff, or to put a cap on their growth. As a result, the Obama administration is creating the status of 99er to go along with the previous Obamacare creations/side effects which were named 49ers and 29ers.
What is a 99er? This is the new status that a business owners will want to be for 2015. If they can keep their FTE count to below 100 employees, 99 or less, then they can avoid penalty exposure and extra reporting requirements. This 99er status would expire on 1/1/2016…unless the law is changed again.
What is a 49er? This is that status that many small businesses aspired to, prior to the Obamacare delays of 2/10/14. A 49er is a business with fewer than 50 FTEs as defined by Obamacare law, Under the original Obamacare law, employers with 49 or fewer employees would be exempt from employer mandate penalties and extra reporting requirements. As such, many employers have implemented plans to keep employment below 50 employees, or to get below 50 employees…..thus 49ers.
What is a 29er? Under original Obamacare rules, employers are subject to penalties of $2,000 or $3,000 for each employee who works over 30 hours per week who is not offered affordable coverage by the employer. Employees who work under 30 hours (29ers) do not cause a penalty exposure for their employer. Many employers, large, and small, have implemented plans to maximize 29ers.
After delaying the entire employer mandate penalty to 1/1/2015, the Obama Admin just announced that they are making changes again:
- Businesses Under 100 Employees: No penalties will be assessed until 1/1/2016 for failure to offer affordable coverage.
- Businesses Over 100 Employees: Compliance requirement lowered for 2015 to 70% of eligible employees who work over 30 hours / week. Down from 95%. This goes back to 95% on 1/1/16.
The CEO of AOL says Obamacare will cost our company an additional 7.1 Million dollars, and we need to determine whether to absorb it, or pass it along to our employees.
I am still trying to CANCEL the coverage that I “enrolled in” (but did not pay). I keep returning to http://www.healthcare.gov. But there is no CANCEL button. I called the 800#, and they say to keep checking back. So, I continue to show up in the stats as people who Enrolled.