Obama Administration

Health Reform Update: Are We Moving Too Fast?

Health care reform is moving at a lightning pace, so we thought we’d provide another update on all the latest developments. We reached a major milestone, as two House committees approved reform legislation. That’s never happened before, and an overhaul of our health care system has never been so close.

… or so far away. As Reuters reports, there’s a long way to go and many hurdles to overcome. The biggest recent “pitfall” has been a report out of the non-partisan overseer Congressional Budget Office, which declared that the most recent iteration of the Democratic health care proposal wouldn’t actually curb escalating health care costs. Then, there was the news that Massachusetts was backpedalling from universal health coverage. (Mass. was often cited as evidence that health care reform can succeed.)

President Obama came forward Friday to address any growing concerns and voice vociferous support for speedy reform. And while the path to comprehensive reform is daunting and the best direction for Americans still unclear (especially small business employers), it would seem unwise to bet against the president getting this done before 2010.

While there are significant differences between the national and Massachusetts model, what the Bay State’s woes illustrate is that perhaps it’s not in our country’s best interests to rush through reform intended to meet or beat a self-imposed deadline. Maybe if Massachusetts is taking major steps backward, it’s an indication that they moved too quickly in the first place and some important elements slipped through the cracks. Now, some feel if national reform doesn’t pass this year, it never will. But whether or not that’s true (there’s no way for us to really know), it shouldn’t have to be that way.

Really, we’ve waited this long, so it would be wonderful if we could fully deliberate all the reform possibilities and be as sure as possible that we’re doing this right. Someone said to me recently that what’s happening right now with this accelerated timeline feels like Congress is “trying to force a watermelon through a garden hose.” It’s true that these are really big changes, so there’s a whole lot to thoughtfully consider and not a lot of time to do it in.

It’s still extremely early in the process, and there’s still plenty of reason for optimism. Hopefully, moving forward in the wake of the CBO report and the news out of Massachusetts, the emphasis will be on taking the time to do reform right, rather than getting reform done by a particular date.

Just know that if you’re a current Stephenson-Welsh client, we’ll keep following all the news out of Washington and blogging about anything that has a direct impact on your insurance.

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COBRA Implications of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Act) was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009. The Act has wide-reaching ramifications, and we want to make sure you’re aware of the latest developments affecting health insurance.

The Act includes a subsidy for COBRA premiums for a period up to nine months for certain employees that were involuntarily relieved from their job from September 1, 2008, through December 31, 2009.

The COBRA subsidy covers 65 percent of the applicable COBRA premium, initially covered by the employer or the insurer and recouped through payroll tax credits. The remaining 35 percent will be the responsibility of the qualified beneficiary.

The COBRA subsidy becomes effective March 1, 2009. It imposes new COBRA administration and notice requirements on plan sponsors, in addition to those involved with the reimbursement process.

Download this PDF developed by one of our partners for more detailed information. The PDF is intended to provide initial guidance to plan sponsors. It is for informational purposes only and is not intended to interpret laws or regulations or to address specific client situations. The document will be revised as additional information becomes available from insurance carriers and government entities.

There are still many questions surrounding the Act and just how many of the elements will work. For those using Stephenson Welsh Insurance Services, we will continue to stay on top of all the latest developments associated with insurance coverages. We will keep you informed about any changes that might affect you and proactively bring to you any opportunities we see emerging.

The next update will likely come sometime after the U.S. Department of Labor report on this topic on March 19.

If you have any questions or need immediate attention, please call us toll-free (1-866-514-0144) or send us an e-mail.

To the best of our knowledge, based on available resources, the attached piece has been prepared with the intention of providing initial guidance to plan sponsors via the broker. It is for informational purposes only and is not intended to interpret laws or regulations or to address specific client situations. The information contained within may also change or be added to with new issuances by government agencies and/or insurance carriers. By redistributing this piece, Stephenson Welsh Insurance Services is released from all liability.

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