Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: Health-care changes affecting NH businesses
Unless you live under a rock or completely refrain from watching the news, there's a good chance you've heard all of the grumblings related to changes in health care that were driven by the Obama administration.
This is a sensitive topic. Everyone has an opinion, and people on both sides are very passionate about the situation. While I try to steer clear of political related points in my columns, the topic of health care is personal and affects everyone. This is less about the political side of things and more about how changes in health care have impacted businesses and individuals.
The official name for Obamacare is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and was signed into law March 23, 2010. It was challenged and upheld by the Supreme Court on June 28, 2012. On Oct. 1, the health insurance marketplace opened for business. Oct. 1 was also the deadline for businesses who offer their employees insurance to notify them of the new marketplace and the options available to them. In addition to the notice, open enrollment for individuals and businesses began.
But one aspect of this change that was overlooked was the impact ACA had on insurance brokers. For those unfamiliar with brokers, they are businesses that act as a liaison between their customers and the insurance companies. They provide critical services to businesses of all sizes and help them navigate the complicated maze of providing insurance solutions to their employees.
Brokers help educate businesses and their employees on insurance benefit options, help process all of the paperwork required to enroll their employees, create and implement wellness programs that help reduce insurance costs and most importantly, they advise and guide businesses through important business decisions that impact the wellbeing of their employees.
The role of a broker is critical to every business. You can think of their role as similar to the role your certified public accountant plays between you and the IRS. You don't deal directly with the IRS, your CPA compiles all of the information and acts on your behalf to represent you in the best possible way. And that's exactly what insurance brokers do.
Unfortunately, as of Oct. 1, due to the changes imposed by our government, brokers lost access to the information, systems and resources needed to effectively support their customers. They don't have access to client information online like they did prior to Oct. 1, and they are being forced to deal with the red tape and broken systems and processes enacted by the creators of the ACA. With most New Hampshire businesses working with a broker, the impact is very pronounced. It's a disappointing and challenging situation.
If you're a business looking for a broker who can help you through the recent changes, you can visit nahu.org, the website of the National Association of Health Underwriters, which is an organization representing more than 100,000 licensed health insurance agents and brokers. Click on "Find an Agent" and enter your zip code.
Speaking of websites, did you hear about the three twentysomethings that built a fully functioning website similar to the epic failure, healthcare.gov? Yes, it's true. They worked part-time for three days and built a website similar to healthcare.gov that actually works. It's almost comical.
Christopher Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.