Trump to ease in changes, mid-market broker predicts

Joe Ellis says he'd like to see Republicans keep the Affordable Care Act
Joe Ellis says he’d like to see Republicans keep the Affordable Care Act “metal level” plan benefits classification system. (Photo: CBIZ)

Joe Ellis, a broker in the mid-size employer group market, says he is happy with the results of the elections and expects Donald Trump’s administration to make helpful changes in health insurance and employee benefits rules.

“I’m very cited about what’s going on,” Ellis said today in an interview.

But Ellis said he thinks that he and other brokers should continue to do what they’ve been doing for now, and not try to get ahead of the game by making big changes in what they sell or how they do business.

Trump administration efforts to change Affordable Care Act programs and rules will take some time to implement, and the Trump administration will probably provide transition relief, Ellis said.

The administration might find a fast way to get taxpayers relief from the ACA individual coverage ownership mandate and the employer benefits offer mandate, but, when it comes to ACA programs that consumers and employers might like, such as the ACA premium tax credit subsidy system, “I don’t think anything will happen in 2017, Ellis said. “I think it would be ill-advised for anyone to do anything different in our business.”

Related: Joe Ellis: Middle market benefits supply looks fine

Ellis is a senior vice president in the Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, office of CBIZ, a company that provides accounting, tax, insurance and human resources services for midsize employers.

Ellis said he expects to see the Trump administration work with Congress to make positive, incremental changes.

In the past few years, employers have had to focus too much on understanding ACA regulations and procedures, and that ate into the time employers and advisors had to talk about what employees really should have, or what employees really want, Ellis said.

ACA red tape also has limited product flexibility and hurt benefits’ advisors to get clients solutions that fit the clients’ needs, Ellis said.

Going forward, Trump is likely to make good on his proposals to expand the health savings account program and make it easier to use, Ellis said.

Trump may also be tough on health insurers and pharmaceutical companies, and he is likely to ease the current tight ACA limits on major medical product design, Ellis said.

But Ellis said he expects to see Republicans to come up with a way to tweak but keep the current ACA restrictions on medical underwriting. The ACA restricts carriers to using applicants’ age, location and tobacco use when setting their premiums. Ellis predicted Republicans will expand the list of factors insurers can use when setting premiums, but he predicted they will avoid going back to the rules in effect in 2008, when insurers in most states could apply fully medical underwriting requirements, and some insurers would respond to claims by going back and checking coverage applications.

“To the average person on the street, that was a really a big deal,” Ellis said. “I don’t think we’re going to go back to that.”

Ellis said he also thinks Republicans should consider keeping the ACA “metal level” system, which helps consumers and employers understand the richness level of major medical plans by classifying them as bronze, silver, gold or platinum plans.

Ellis said he also thinks Republicans should considering finding a way to keep some form of the ACA public exchange system in place, even if no subsidies are available.

The exchange system can be useful when people need coverage because of life changes, Ellis said. 

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