Seems like an easy question that could simply be answered with a yes or no answer, right? However, the answer depends on who you are: a consumer, a politician, or a health insurance agent.
The consumer must believe the Affordable Care Act is relevant. About 20 million more Americans now have health insurance than before the law was enacted in 2010. During the last enrollment period 12.7 million signed up, almost 40 percent of those being newcomers. Plus, the ACA still requires people to own a plan to avoid having to pay a penalty - a fee called the “individual shared responsibility payment.” Click here for more details on penalties on penalties.
For discussion, many consumers have seen their premiums rise anywhere from 10-40% in certain markets from years past. Additionally, provider networks have morphed into “narrow networks” and PPOs are almost a thing of the past. Yet consumers are still required to purchase this ever evolving product called health insurance. Most of the newly issued plans come with heavily subsidized premiums – thank you Taxpayers! So for many consumers, the ACA is worth discussing.
For the Presidential candidates, the ACA doesn't dominate the dialogue and isn't a top priority on either side. The explanation may be that despite all its controversy and imperfections, the sweeping law has taken hold. The ACA is now a part of the norm. Still, Texas Senator Ted Cruz touts the ACA as "the biggest job-killer in this country. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs." Really Senator Cruz? From March 2010 when the law was enacted until today, the economy has added 13.7 million jobs. So, do the Politicians care to discuss the ACA? Not really.
Do the health insurance agents care to discuss the ACA? Many ACA qualified health plans have been forced to eliminate agent commissions. But why? The insurance companies complain that agents bring them unprofitable business. Funny, because I thought guarantee issue requirements and pre-existing conditions being covered from day one were the culprit for causing the loss ratios to skyrocket. But the agents are to blame? Or should Navigators – pardon me – “in person assisters” be blamed? After all, we the taxpayers funded “in person assisters” to enroll the sick, the poor, and the uninsured Americans... Plus the legally documented immigrants, many of whom never paid any meaningful taxes towards financing the ACA. Yes, the agents certainly care to discuss the ACA!
Looking ahead, this Fall will be very interesting. Insurance companies will start announcing plan designs and network changes, and hopefully these companies will also be announcing enrollment fees (a.k.a. commissions) for true professionals to assist enrollments. Until then, agents need to diversify their portfolio and reach back out to their existing clients to talk about different products like life insurance, for example. Sitting back and waiting for the “Affordable Life Insurance Act” just does not seem to be an option, so the agents better keep the ACA discussion alive. Or else…