Representing Health Care Concerns: Kaiser on Capitol Hill

Posted by Andrew Kaiser on May 11, 2016

I’m not a bill, but I was on Capitol Hill. Sorry, Gen X’ers, you will have to Google that one. In Late February I spent about 3 days in Washington, DC on Capitol Hill. The purpose was to discuss current and proposed legislation with federal legislators from NC that impacts health insurance, employers, and individuals. Several of you shared your personal stories of how you or your businesses have been impacted by health insurance legislation. I was able to share these stories to help our legislators understand how ACA laws are impacting Main Street America and build awareness of the pros and cons of the legislation below. Your stories personalize the legislation and make it more tangible than bill numbers and technical jargon.

Bill on Capitol Hill

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to relay your stories. This the third year I have made the trip as part of a group representing the National Association of Health Underwriters members (about 725 strong). All total, we were collectively responsible for more than 400 meetings with members of Congress and their aides. The large showing represented agents/brokers, like myself, as well as insurance company executives and third party administrators.

Our primary legislative priorities were maintaining access to licensed benefit professionals, maintaining choice of health plans for consumers, and making changes to increase affordability of plans.
A chief initiative under these areas of focus was a push to permanently repeal both the Cadillac/excise tax and the Health Insurance Tax (HIT), which were delayed by two and one years, respectively, in legislation that was passed this past December. The Cadillac tax would impose a 40% excise tax on health plans that exceed certain cost thresholds beginning in 2020 under the delay. The thresholds are set at levels that would impact plans more in the “mid-price car range” (vs. Cadillac), impacting more people than originally planned. The HIT tax is projected to cost each family about $500 annually in higher premiums. Both taxes drive up cost and limit the availability of good medical plans.

We also promoted restoration of the traditional 40-hour work week, which the ACA effectively replaced with a 30-hour work week for employees to be eligible for health insurance. The 40-hour work week reached a major legislative milestone last January when the House voted to pass the bill. Unfortunately, despite the strong bipartisan House vote and support from 42 of the chamber’s 100 senators, the Senate has yet to take up its bill, S. 30.

Other areas of concern were:

  • Improving access for agents and brokers to healthcare.gov
  • Addressing challenges related to counting employees and complying with employer reporting requirements under ACA
  • Increasing the effectiveness and structure of the small business tax credit
  • Restoring the 90 day open enrollment period after the beginning of a plan year to allow Medicare beneficiaries to make a one-time plan switch to another Medicare Advantage Plan or return to a Traditional Medicare plan
  • Allowing COBRA to count as credible coverage for Medicare Beneficiaries
  • Removing Agent/Broker compensation from the Medical Loss Ratio bill to allow professional Brokers and Agents to support their clients in choosing and making the most out of new coverage options by assistance, trusted advice, and service, without resulting in further service reductions and lost jobs
    Streets and Sidewalks

Productive though it may have been, the visit to Capitol Hill was not all “shaking hands and kissing babies”. I did get to spend Saturday on the streets and sidewalks of Washington, DC enjoying the the city while spending a little time with one of my hobbies, videography, that you can watch by clicking on the image on the right.

 

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