As the momentum for healthcare reform builds, health insurance companies and agents and brokers are focusing on battling a proposed “public option” and securing the future role of agents and brokers as Congress starts work on fashioning legislation designed to totally revamp the nation’s healthcare delivery system.
“Congress has made it clear it wants a bill this year reforming the nation’s healthcare system and they have developed a very aggressive timetable to pass such legislation,” said Robert Zirkelbach, director of strategic communications at America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents health insurers.
Both AHIP and a newly-formed coalition of all health insurance, life insurance and property-casualty agents groups have voiced opposition to the “public plan,” which would use Medicare and Medicaid to provide a competing government-sponsored healthcare plan designed to force private insurers to hold down rates.
At the same time, the agents’ groups are working to ensure that they have a role going forward in the new system and that their commissions aren’t sacrificed to hold rates down.
While there is stronger support in the House than in the Senate for the public plan, the consensus is that the ultimate result will be a compromise proposed by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
His proposal is for the public plan to be held in abeyance for several years in hopes that the private sector will use that period of time to impose reforms that will eliminate the need for the public option.
For the agents, one proposal suggested by the Senate Finance Committee is creation of health exchanges, or “connectors.”
This proposal would empower the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish Web portals that direct individuals and small businesses to available insurance options in their state.
These proposals would:
–Include a tax credit calculator so individuals and small businesses could determine their true cost of coverage.
–Inform individuals of eligibility for public programs.