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Friday 23 June 2017
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ObamaCare After the Election — What Now?

Steve Fisher is an insurance agent at The DJB Group in Meadville, Pennsylvania. The DJB Group specializes in all lines of insurance including individual, group and property & casualty insurance. The DJB Group is a full-service agency representing all of the major carriers in our region. You can contact Steve at 814/724-1516 or steve@djbgroup.com.

On March 23, 2010, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. Since then, there have been many changes and delays to the law. So what can we expect from a new president who campaigned on a promise to fully repeal and replace what has become known as ObamaCare. How will this be done — and when?

Many believe this is an easy thing to fix, and that the new president can simply say he is ending ObamaCare and everyone can go back to the insurance they used to have. The only problem is that the carriers have invested millions of dollars into complying with the new law and can’t just flip a switch to bring the old plans back.

There are parts of the law that carriers have agreed with, such as covering preventive care and covering children up to age 26 (although some do not feel children should be covered if they are married before 26). However, many other parts of the law need to be removed or fixed. This is obvious by the horrendous rate increases that we have been experiencing — along with a reduction in benefits.

ObamaCare was created out of a sense of urgency by President Obama to get a health plan established during his first term. Instead of working with providers, carriers, employers, etc. to create a plan that made economic sense, we were sold a bill of goods that most believed could not work. This has proven to be the case.

So what can be done at this time?

The new administration needs to take time to get it right and not simply rush to repeal ObamaCare. Far too many people are now enrolled in the system under individual plans, or employer-sponsored ACA plans. We need to bring all vested parties together to evaluate what will and won’t work.

In the meantime, there are some steps that the new administration can take to stop the bleeding of ObamaCare. For example, they can end the employer mandate and return fulltime status to those working 40 hours per week. This would allow employers to end the need to track “variable” employees using measurement and stability periods. The individual mandate could also be eliminated. Of course, by doing this, the government would be losing tax revenue from the fines, and those revenues are needed to fund other parts of ObamaCare (i.e. individual subsidies).

Another recommendation would be to allow Health Savings Accounts (HSA) for all plans — not just qualified high-deductible plans — allowing all individuals to establish a savings account to pay for medical bills. The argument from D.C. on this position is that the government would lose tax revenue as more people participate, so they would need to make cuts elsewhere to remain tax neutral.

We hear that we need to allow carriers to sell across state lines in order to create competition. This may not be the answer, as there are many questions that would need to be considered. Each state currently has its own Insurance Commissioner — would we turn this control over to the federal level? Each state has its own mandates — how would out-of-state carriers abide by these? Many of our local providers are now owned by carriers — why would they give comparable discounts to an out-of-state carrier with no market share?

The major concern should be regarding what will happen to rates if nothing changes and everyone is forced into an ACA plan after 2017. Yes, some (very few) employers have saved money enrolling in an ACA-based plan. However, the majority of employers will be looking at rate increases of 60 percent to 100 percent or more when forced into the ACA plans — with many receiving a reduction in benefits. And, these will be aged-based rates with older employees paying up to three times what the younger employees will pay. How will employers maintain reasonable employee contributions when this happens? This is why we need to at least see a delay in forcing employers into ACA plans.

Yes, we need to fix ObamaCare, but let’s take the time to do it right.