The Rescue Call, Market Stability, And How I Failed At UBER

It appears that it is common, when someone is on a blind date, to arrange a “Rescue Call”. There is even a commercial on TV that references this.  A friend calls you and provides you a reason to cut the date short.  I actually saw it in action on Wednesday.

I was in a Congressman’s office. Seven Ohio health insurance brokers were in his office to discuss the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and what we were going to do now.  Fifteen minutes into a positive / routine meeting we were interrupted by one of his aides.  After one quick knock on the door, the aide poked his head into the room and told the Congressman that he had another meeting.  The Congressman waived him off and we all got another fifteen minutes.  If this had been a date, we would have just qualified for a second cup of coffee.  Welcome to How To Visit Washington DC 2017.

Over a thousand members of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) gathered this week in Washington to hear from a variety of experts and to talk with our states’ elected representatives.  Most of us are there on our own dime.  It is that important for us to get the most up to-date information and to make certain that our lawmakers understand how our clients will be impacted, both positively and negatively, by any changes in the way Americans pay for their health care.

The Law of Unintended Consequences.

There are a lot of ideas that sound absolutely fantastic on TV but will be irrelevant, or even worse disastrous, in practice. Insurance agents are uniquely positioned to explain the real world impact of these programs.

We were in Washington to deliver one important message for our clients – Market Stabilization. It is already mid-February.  Nothing can really be changed for 2017 and the insurers only have eight weeks left to prepare for 2018.  Yes, eight weeks.  Insurers are currently working to file their plans and rates for 2018 and they, as well as our clients, need to know what the market will look like on both the state and federal levels.

Our key points centered on the individual (non-group) market.

  • Allow the tax credits that help so many Americans to afford coverage to remain intact for at least two more years or until a comparable replacement can be put in place.
  • Allow tax credits to be used outside of the Marketplace if fewer than two choices are offered in a state.
  • Allow any person to purchase a catastrophic-category coverage regardless of age or income status.
  • Tighten both the open-enrollment and special-enrollment periods to reduce adverse selection.
  • Allow states to be eligible for a new hybrid high risk pool that would serve as a reinsurance mechanism while still providing the same level of coverage for even the highest risk individuals.
  • Preserve employer-sponsored health insurance by retaining the employer exclusion.

Yes, this is a lot of process and almost nothing that would make a good sound bite. These points and others would help secure the promise of health insurance coverage for the next couple of years.

Armed with individualized packets, we set off to meet our Senators and Members of the House. I had a chance to visit offices in the Senate and the House, Democrats and Republicans.  Some of my meetings were with the actual lawmaker.  Some were with staff.  And though it is always gratifying to have a Congressman make time to speak with a visiting constituent, some of the best meetings can be with a Chief of Staff or a knowledgeable legislative aide, especially one who specializes in public health.  I found this year’s meetings productive.  The Congressmen and their staffs were totally engaged.  They asked good questions.  They took notes.  I honestly felt that my time and expertise were valued.

**  **  **  **  **

I was in geek heaven. Cigars.  Scotch.  Politics.  I was with two of my peers and a lobbyist in Shelly’s Backroom doing a deep dive on the current state of affairs.  The hours flew by and it was past midnight when I called us an UBER.  We walked outside, ignored the parked cab, and looked for Mohammed and his Toyota Camry.  A Camry stopped, right in front of us, in the middle of the street.  We walked up to the car and tried to get in as the driver frantically waived at us.  We had failed to notice that there was a traffic light, here in the middle of the block, and he had been stopped for a red light.  He wasn’t an UBER!  We stepped back and he sped off.

Another Camry, one with an UBER decal, came up a couple of minutes later. This time we verified that it was an UBER and got in.  Sitting shotgun, I noticed that the driver was a little confused.  We had only traveled a few blocks before his phone rang.  It was Betsy.  She wanted to know where the Hell he was.  They started arguing.  This wasn’t Mohammed and we were in the wrong UBER.  In the end I cancelled my order, paid the penalty, and slipped the driver a $10 for a $7 ride.  His last ride as an UBER driver might as well include a tip.

The view from the train beneath the Capitol.

The Ways and Means and Committee needs new furniture!

This is either the office of Rep. Don Young of Alaska or a Betsy DeVos elementary school.


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