A Visit to Capitol Hill…

February 24th – February 26th 2014, Jessica Dean, Employee Benefits Consultant, attended the Capitol 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 Health Care Reform? 

About 99% of those in attendance would be glad to see Health Reform Repealed.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 Care 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 soar, coverage levels to become degraded, polices to cancel, and confusion to reign.

Advocating to Improve Health Care Reform Law:    

Following the general sessions, the attendees went to Capitol 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 were discussed:

  • 40 Hour Work Week:  Change Health Reform from 30 hours to 40 hours for full time status.  This will give employers more flexibility.
  • Increase Large Employer Status from 50 to 100:    This would allow any employer below 100 employees to be exempt from no-offer penalties.
  • Change Age Bands from 3-1 to 5-1:  This would reduce the required rate increases in a significant manner and allow younger people more affordable rates.
  • Increasing the small group deductible maximum:  The small group deductible maximum is currently set at $2000 individual/$4000 family, this number is arbitrary and does not allow employers the flexibility to implement higher deductibles with a HRA to save on premium dollars
  • Broker Hotline for Healthcare.gov:  This would allow brokers a special access point in order to resolve problems for clients.
  • Allow Changes to Applications:  Currently Healthcare.gov does not allow applicants to make changes in the input process or the plan selection.

 Meetings with Congressmen: 

With several NAHU members from Pennsylvania in attendance our lobbyist was able to schedule meetings with all Pennsylvania members of Congress and the Senate.  Personally, Jessica was scheduled to meet with the offices of Lou Barletta, Matt Cartwright and Jim Gerlach.

As Republicans, Barletta and Gerlach 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.

Unfortunately Cartwright’s office was rather disorganized and upon arrival the office’s scheduler did not have record of our meeting.  Unfortunately we were not able to meet with anyone, however I am trying to schedule something locally in our district.  Ironically, the next communication from the office a member of our group received was a lengthy email requesting a donation.  Hopefully we can get that meeting on the calendar soon!

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.

Stay tuned!

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