Over the years, it has become evident that to effectively serve our clients, we must transcend the function as mere agent and add the responsibilities of also being a health care insurance advocate. As I always say, ECCHIC isn’t for everyone – if you just want an agent to call around and get you quotes on various plans once a year, then we’re not for you. We’re partners, diligently surveying and fighting the constant changes in the health care market so you can take care of your employees with the coverage you want at the discounted price you deserve.
Heather Ambro, our V.P. of Administrative Services, and myself went to Washington, D.C. recently as part of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) Capitol Conference. Here we interact with attendees in our industry from all over the country, from Alaska to Maine. More importantly, we have meetings and events with our Congressional Representatives and Senators, and other politicians who are involved in health care insurance policy.
We advocated directly with the following lawmakers:
- Senator Bill Cassidy (R) Louisiana, Co-sponsor of the Cassidy-Collins Bill – one of the proposals on the table to change the current ObamaCare program;
- Senator Lamar Alexander (R) Tennessee, Chairman of the Senate Health Education and Labor Committee;
- Former Senator Tom Daschle (D) South Dakota, Former Senate Majority Leader;
- Congressman Chris Collins (R) New York;
- Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (D) Arizona;
- Congressman Mike Kelly (R) Pennsylvania; and a multitude of health insurance industry economists, government relations advisors, consultants and strategists involved in relevant congressional affairs.
This was in addition to scheduled meetings with our respective Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen from Missouri, including Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, and Representative Ann Wagner. In all these meetings, we were explicit and firm in explaining that their actions or inactions in creating and perpetuating ObamaCare has caused more problems than it solves, and we offered candid, expert direction on what needs to be done to correct it.
The overriding issue that must be solved is the instability in the insurance marketplace that ObamaCare (aka Affordable Care Act) has caused. In many parts of the country there are only one or two carriers left offering insurance. In addition, the premiums are escalating to unprecedented levels with the deductibles rising to $5,000 and $6,000 for single coverage and $12,000 to $13,000 deductibles for married people or parents with dependent children. The priority issue is insurance market stability and insurance coverage affordability along with a benefit that has some useful value.
One of the next most important issues is the reduction and elimination of useless but expensive and time consuming regulations and reports. This is causing excessive unproductive expense to the average independent employer. If there is more flexibility in the structure of the policies like there used to be, and less mandates and requirements connected to them, with more choice, that would be a major part of the foundation.
Another area of debate is what to do about some of the taxes caused by the ACA, especially the “Cadillac Tax.” This is a 40 percent excise tax on all premiums that exceed $10,500 per year for an individual and $23,000 for a family or an employee with spouse. What is spent on benefits through HSA’s is included in these calculations. Right now, few if any small business owners even approach this level, but it will seriously impact a number of employers around the country because of the escalating premiums going on now. Related, also under debate is the H.I.T. (Health Insurance Tax) built in to premiums that we now have to pay. This all adds to our cost that is used to subsidize many ObamaCare recipients who pay little for their coverages. Nobody really knows where this will shake out, though we know where we don’t want it to go ….
In addition, the premiums are escalating to unprecedented levels with the deductibles rising to $5,000 and $6,000 for single coverage and $12,000 to $13,000 deductibles for married people, or with dependent children. And these are just a few of the issues we’re following and advocating on for on our clients’ behalf.
These trips to events like the one NAHU held are made at our own expense, and only about a 1,000 health insurance professionals across the nation do it (just to put it in perspective, there are hundreds of thousands of health insurance agents across the country). But this is worth it because this directly enables us to serve our small business clients better, both in what we learn, and perhaps more importantly, in how we’re able to lobby and educate the politicians who are enacting laws that affect all of us on these issues.
I will say this: The more that I learn of what is going on around us, the more validation there is that the methods that we’ve employed for our clients are the correct ones. We don’t know what lies ahead, what Washington will (or won’t!) do, but we at ECCHIC know this: By empowering our clients to own their own plan like the big companies do is the surest bet to stability, access to quality health care, and insurance cost savings up to 40 percent. By working with ECCHIC to own your own health care plan, you will be shielded from past, present, and future government policies. We can say that, because we stay engaged and advocate on your behalf to make it so.