HAFA urges agents to keep fighting

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), promoted an Affordable Care Act fixer bill that could appeal to centrist Democrats at a Health Agents for America meeting in August. (Photo: Cassidy's office)
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), promoted an Affordable Care Act fixer bill that could appeal to centrist Democrats at a Health Agents for America meeting in August. (Photo: Cassidy’s office)

Health Agents for America is urging its agent members to keep their grassroots lobbying boots on, and to continue to defend themselves against Affordable Care Act-related red tape and operational problems.

Donald Trump may now be the president-elect, and Republicans may continue to be in control of both the House and the Senate, but “it is important that everyone understands, the ACA remains in effect and will be for a while,” B. Ronnell Nolan, HAFA’s president, wrote Thursday in an email sent to HAFA members. “Mandates, reporting [rules] and penalties remain in place.”

In August, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), sought agents’ and brokers’ support for an ACA fixer proposal he developed with Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas). Cassidy and Sessions have tried to increase the odds of that bill attracting enough support from Democrats to get through the Senate by keeping some of the more popular ACA provisions, such as the requirement that insurers let parents keep children on their coverage up to age 26.

Related: 3 reasons Congress could approve an ACA change bill (with video)

For now, however, consumers still have to buy health coverage to avoid having to pay the penalties to be imposed on many people who fail to buy what the ACA and the Obama administration has classified as adequate health coverage, and employers still must comply with ACA reporting requires, Nolan says.

Nolan says agents and brokers still face acute ACA nightmares, including the unwillingness of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency in charge of the HealthCare.gov exchange enrollment system, to do anything to help HealthCare.gov agents collect commission payments.

Recently, she says, CMS sent an email offering agents and brokers who help 20 people who enroll in exchange coverage a Circle of Champions badge. Given the CMS refusal to help agents get paid, the badge email proves the huge disconnect between CMS and the agent community, she says.

Benefits compliance specialists are also warning agents and brokers against assuming that Republicans will be able to flip a switch on Jan. 20 and turn the ACA off.

Kim Buckey, a compliance specialist at DirectPath, a Birmingham, Alabama-based compliance firm that serves large employers, says in a commentary on the election results that she believes the earliest Republicans could replace and replace the ACA would be August.

Even replacing the ACA that quickly would depend on what is really going on in Congress, Buckey says.

But the Trump administration is likely to freeze any proposed or pending ACA regulations, and it may be able to slow down the implementation of some of the rules and programs that are already in effect, Buckey says.

“Employers should schedule meetings with consultants and legal counsel to begin discussions about any required or desired plan design changes for 2018,” Buckey says.

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