Risk & Business Magazine Branch Benefits Consultants Magazine Summer 2018 - Page 8


Health Care Reform :

Will Things Get Worse Before They Get Better ?

No one really knows the answer to this question , but we ’ re here to offer an overview of where things stand on the healthcare rollercoaster after President Trump ’ s first year in office . He was not successful in repealing the Affordable Care Act ( ACA )— aka Obamacare — completely , but his administration did take steps that are likely to change the nature of the ACA — certain to weaken its impact — moving forward .

The most talked-about change to the ACA was the repeal of the individual insurance mandate , which was embedded within the Republican tax bill ( i . e ., the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act ). Since healthier individuals are more likely to opt out of purchasing coverage than less healthy individuals , economists expect the remaining population under the ACA to be less healthy than average , causing premiums to climb . Another likely effect is that these healthier individuals that no longer have insurance coverage will be more likely to visit expensive emergency rooms for treatment . The result ? Most likely , further increases in health care costs and premiums .
In addition to repeal of the individual mandate , President Trump signed an executive order that would greatly expand the ability of small-trade and business groups to form associations for the purpose of acquiring healthcare insurance , a welcoming option for small businesses and individual proprietorships . While these plans will still prohibit denial of coverage and discrimination against those with preexisting conditions , insurers will be allowed to assess different premiums to people , depending on their gender , age , industry in which they work , or other factors . These plans may prove very attractive to business owners seeking low-cost options , but they may also further fracture the ACA ’ s core mission .
In addition , association plans would now be available across state lines , which , in theory would encourage healthy competition among insurance companies . In actuality , some fear that this change could have the opposite effect of closing the door to most insurers except the largest insurance companies .
President Trump threatened to withdraw reimbursements to insurance companies providing subsidies to low-income individuals . Without this underlying support from the government , insurance companies would be forced to raise premiums to cover costs for the underprivileged . A last-second compromise avoided this situation for the time being .
The Trump Administration also took steps to discourage enrollment by chopping the open enrollment period in half and sharply reducing media campaigns and other outreach measures . Despite these initiatives , enrollment for 2018 remained strong — only dropping by five percent versus the previous year .
All in all , the outlook for the ACA ’ s survival is substantially gloomier than it was a year ago before Trump took office . Two big question marks remain . One is the degree to which President Trump will succeed in further weakening or eliminating the ACA during
the remainder of his term . The second is the overall economic outlook of the economy . While economic growth has been strong for most of the past eight years , a weakening of the economy in 2018 could cause further disruption in healthcare insurance markets .
One of our top responsibilities as health insurance agents is to understand the changes in health coverage laws and help our clients interpret them to their best advantage . We will continue to advise clients based on the information at hand as well as on our experts ’ projections into the future under various scenarios . Contact us to learn more about how changes in health insurance markets may impact you and your company ’ s own healthcare plan . You can contact Tara at tjaquet @ branchbenefitsconsultants . com or call her 702-646-2082 . +
Tara Jacquet brings 15 years ’ experience to Branch Benefits Consultants with a background in managing large group employee benefits , developing plan designs and health care study data analysis in and out of the state of Nevada . Tara supports Branch Benefits Consultants ’ goal of delivering tailored benefit solutions with thoughtful strategic planning , valuable professional services , and technologybased solutions by focusing on building strong strategic partnerships and serving a diverse and growing business community .