public option

Update: Halfway to Health Reform

Over the weekend, the House passed extensive health care reform that if enacted would radically reshape the American health care system. The final vote was 220-215, with a single Republican supporting the bill’s passage.

That brings us the halfway point of the legislative process. Well, maybe one-third since the final House and Senate bills would have to first be cobbled together before heading to President Obama’s desk.

The House bill does include a public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers as well as equally controversial employer coverage mandates for businesses with payrolls in excess of $500,000. The Senate bills introduced so far do not include employer mandates, and it’s unclear if a bill with such provisions could ever pass the Senate.

The diverse opinions on the public option, employer mandates, abortion funding and the trillion dollar price tag set up a legislative showdown in the Senate, with less than five weeks to pass their version in order to meet an unofficial goal of completing the entire process before the end of the year.

For our clients (and Americans in general), each day’s news brings myriad new questions. What we can do as brokers is continue to remain dialed in to the events on Capital Hill so we can be poised for change and proactive in our approach leading up to any final legislation.

Whether we’re talking about the current system, an insurance marketplace exchange or a public alternative to private carriers, it’s clear there’s going to be plenty for individuals, employees and employers to navigate. Our job is to know what’s available inside and out, help clients sort through choices and ultimately select the best possible coverage based on their status and situation.

The need for that type of help is perhaps the only thing in the world of health insurance that’s not about to change.

Tagged , , , ,

Health Reform Latest: Words, Bills & Dollars

To say the legislative process has been “messy” would be an understatement. But despite all the heated rhetoric, we still seem to be moving closer to some form of health care reform day by day.

One of the main questions at this point is whether any degree of bipartisan consensus is possible, or if the Democratic majority will attempt to push a bill (or bills) through to passage on their own … either through a filibuster-proof 60-vote senate majority or the complicated “budget reconciliation” course of last resort, which theoretically would only require 50 senators for passage. Many people are uneasy about this approach.

Of course the other dominant question is whether the bill ultimately heading to President Obama’s desk will include a “public option” to compete against the offerings of private insurance companies. According to the latest reports out of Washington, the life of the public option is largely now a numbers game. This is the most volatile element of the legislative process at the moment, so we’ll keep an eye on the latest. We could know significantly more as early as Friday.

Meanwhile, the latest figures show health care advertisements on television have topped $100 million, illustrating how high the perceived stakes are for many parties and industries that would be affected by reform.

There are still many, many moving parts and how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together is not yet clear. Right now we are waiting on the Senate Finance Committee to complete its work so senate leaders get begin cobbling all the different versions of bills together into a package to take to the senate floor. The floor debate could last weeks (or longer) depending on how things go.

At this point as insurance brokers, we see our job as staying up to date on everything that could affect our current clients and having a firm grasp of what the re-formed health insurance landscape will look like (so we can properly advise new and renewing clients). One thing seems clear: No matter what health care looks like, there will be a need for expert help navigating all the choices and plans and key details—and matching people and groups with the programs that best suit their specific needs. That’s what we’re here for.

Tagged , , ,