Risk & Business Magazine Hardenbergh Insurance Group Magazine Summer 2018 - Page 6


Are you confused about what the 2017 Republican tax bill might mean for the Affordable Care Act ( ACA ), aka Obamacare ? If so , you are not alone . While the bulk of our national health plan remains intact , a provision in the bill that repeals the individual mandate to purchase health insurance may cause profound changes for the ACA ’ s future .

The new law effectively says that beginning in 2019 , penalties for not purchasing coverage will be reduced from several hundred dollars to zero . Portions of the ACA that remain intact include coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions , premium subsidies for lowerincome earners , and expanded coverage through Medicaid .
Most economists agree that by allowing individuals to opt out of purchasing healthcare insurance , the healthcare marketplace plans will skew towards less healthy populations . Without the base of premiums provided by relatively healthy individuals needing minimal care , these plans will lack the resources needed to pay for services to highconsuming individuals . The result , economists conclude , will be starkly higher premiums , coverage declines , or a combination of the two . Even large insurance companies may face difficulties in being able to fund such an unbalanced plan .
With the expected rise in premiums , even more people will be forced to opt out of the marketplace plans , leading to a greater number of uninsured — further defeating the purpose of “ a national plan .” As more and more people drop out of coverage , only the least healthy may remain , driving

The Future of the


premiums even higher and perpetuating this downward cycle . According to the Congressional Budget Office , premium increases of ten percent may be expected , causing four million people to quit these plans in 2019 and upwards of 13 million to opt out of these plans by 2027 . Some argue that the message the government is sending to individuals — that healthcare coverage is not considered essential any more — is enough to raise those numbers considerably .
President Trump has chipped away at the ACA in other ways too , such as by expanding the availability of healthcare plans through outside associations , including targeted industry , trade , and business groups . This change will allow these groups to exist solely for the provision of health insurance , which was previously not allowed . The new regulations are somewhat of a “ mixed bag ” for association members , with the potential for lesser coverage but prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of preexisting conditions or degree of sickness .
Surprisingly , despite the uncertainty around the ACA , the recent open enrollment period drew nearly the same number of new sign-ups as the prior year — dropping by just five percent despite a much shorter enrollment window and sharply less outreach by the government . Only time will truly tell how these developments will unfold , and of course , there may be additional changes down the road .
To discuss how changes in the Republican tax bill may impact your own employee healthcare plan , or to inquire about changes to your plan moving forward , please contact me at 856-890- 7144 or dweiss @ hig . net . +
David Weiss is a Benefits Consultant at HIG who partners with his clients to insure they remain in compliance with federal and state regulations . In addition , he also works to assist them in retaining and recruiting top talent . He educates employees by walking them through real life situations and explaining how the differences in plan design may affect their financial and physical wellbeing . Due to his educational background , he is able to break through the stigma of health insurance and allow employers and employees alike , to truly understand what is being offered to them .