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8 industry experts sound off on election implications

Holding a sign saying
Holding a sign saying "We Love ObamaCare" supporters of health care reform rally (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Here at LifeHealthPro, we queried our top industry contacts in order to cut through the morass of speculation and get down to tangible implications the election will have on the industry. Read on for eight key opinions anticipating the next four years.

Thomas Mangan, chief executive officer of United Benefits Advisors said:

“I think the voters spoke loud and clear. A majority want to keep the health law. The idea that Congress will come up with enough bipartisan spirit to fix the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in ways that would make the law work better is probably wishful thinking. If Republicans and Democrats did want to work together to improve PPACA, one place to start might be to come up with measures to keep employers from evading PPACA requirements that apply to large employers by turning full-time workers into part-timers," Mangan said.

Bonnie Burns, a consultant at California Health Advocates and someone who helps speak for consumers' interests in National Association of Insurance Commissioners proceedings:

Burns, who works directly with consumers and people who advise consumers, said she had worried that a Romney administration would have imposed even more drastic limits on Medicare than Obama has proposed.

But Burns said she is still worried about Obama administration proposals to impose a tax on seniors who buy “near first dollar” Medicare supplement insurance policies to fill in some of the gaps in basic traditional Medicare coverage.

Medicare supplement plans — also known as Medigap plans — can help consumers cover the cost of basic Medicare deductibles, co-payment requirements and coinsurance requirements, and Medigap plans also may cover products and services that basic Medicare does not cover.

Federal law limits insurers to selling standardized Medigap packages designated by letters such as C, F and G.

One problem is that the people who speak for Medicare program enrollees are not sure what the Obama administration means when it refers to “near first dollar” Medigap coverage, Burns said.

The administration seems to be referring to the most comprehensive Medigap plan types — plans C and F — but some fear that the administration could be using the term “near first dollar coverage” to refer to just about all Medigap plans, Burns said.

Whether discouraging ordinary consumers from seeing the doctor really saves money in the long run is questionable, and, “with Medicare beneficiaries, that’s an especially dangerous idea,” Burns said.

Image: In this June 28, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks about the Supreme Court ruling on health care in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Stephen Moses, president of the Center for Long-Term Care Reform, a group that supports efforts to change federal and state policies in ways that encourage middle-income and upper-income Americans to finance their own long-term care needs:

Moses said he thinks the election results mean that the current policies will stay in place, and that it’s unlikely that policymakers will do much to stabilize Medicaid or Medicare.

“We’re on a course for complete disaster,” Moses said. “It’s dangerous, and it’s sad.”

The United States has accumulated trillions of dollars in new debt since 2008, and budget projections show that the country is on track to accumulate trillions of dollars in additional debt in the next few years, Moses said

“At some point,” he said, “you can no longer borrow that type of money. Nobody’s going to be willing to lend you that kind of money at interest rates approaching 0 percent.”

Image:President Barack Obama clasps hands with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., left, and Virginia Democratic Senate Candidate, former Gov. Timothy Kaine, right, during a campaign stop at the historic Fire Station No.1, in downtown Roanoke, Va., Friday, July 13, 2012. (AP Photo /Don Petersen)

Joel Wood, senior vice president of government affairs for the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers (CIAB), and the Council’s top lobbyist on Capitol Hill:

"The ACA has survived a Supreme Court challenge and the election, and there is no chance that the Obama Administration is going to bail on any major aspect of the reform.  But it is virtually impossible for me to imagine that legislative evolution isn’t going to occur. The Medicaid doughnut hole can’t be addressed through an executive order. The potential “subsidy gap” (wherein there will be challenges on the basis that the statutory language doesn’t provide subsidies for those in a national exchange) will need to be cleaned up. It is practically impossible that the exchange development implementation goals can be met. The cost of the subsidies will be put on the table by Republican leaders during fiscal cliff negotiations. We’re not naïve here, but there are going to be opportunities to address many of these issues, and it’s in the interest of the Administration to attempt to achieve accommodations that work."

Image: In this Aug. 31, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Peter Kochenburger, executive director, Insurance Law Center director of graduate programs, associate clinical professor of law, University of Connecticut School of Law:

"For insurance consumers, the election results likely mean that the current level of federal involvement will not be curtailed — the FSOC's consideration of insurers will continue and the the FIO should retain its (limited) regulatory authority. I haven't seen any interest, at least publicly, by the FIO to try to expand its domestic regulatory power significantly, so I do not think the election will embolden it to do so now. Of course, we will all know a lot more about how the FIO sees its future role, or that of federal insurance regulation generally, once its Regulatory Modernization report is released. If nothing else, I hope the report will prod state insurance regulators to become more proactive in areas important to insurance consumers and where the states have been slow to act.

I do think, however, that the FIO will continue and likely expand its involvement in international regulatory issues, both because this area is becoming increasingly important, and because the FIO has some actual authority here (unlike most areas of domestic regulation). International involvement raises important consumer protection issues, which, depending upon how they are handled, could strengthen or weaken regulatory protection in the United States. I believe Director McRaith is attune to our concerns here, but the FIO could face significant industry pressure to promote deregulation in the guise of international cooperation (or competition)."

Image: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, center, flanked by FDIC Chair Sheila Bair, right, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, take part in the Financial Stability Oversight Council's (FSOC) first meeting, Friday, Oct. 1, 2010 at the Treasury Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Ethan Rome, Executive Director, Health Care for America Now:

“After two years of raging debate about health care and the most expensive and polarizing presidential election campaign in our nation's history, Obamacare won on November 6, and it's here to stay. This election secures the guarantee of high quality, affordable health care for every American, without insurance company abuses and hassle. President Obama has won a second term that guarantees a bright future for the Affordable Care Act, and the Senate has turned more progressive. This strengthens the hand of supporters of the middle class. Lawmakers should not even consider beneficiary cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress. People depend on the protections in these programs, and they are the backbone of the American dream. We need to defend them, not cut them.”

Image: President Barack Obama watches as first lady Michelle Obama gives a thumbs up at his election night party Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, in Chicago. President Obama defeated Republican challenger former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

 

Mike Kreidler, Washington State Insurance Comissioner :

“Once the Affordable Care Act was passed, we’ve been working non-stop to implement all of the reforms. We knew that we had a tight timeline to accomplish everything necessary to meet the 2014 deadline. It’s not that we weren’t aware that a different outcome by either the U.S. Supreme Court or this week’s election could’ve stalled or halted our efforts, we’ve just focused on getting everything in place to be ready for Jan. 1, 2014. Washington State, under the direction of a private/public partnership board, is working to set up its own exchange and we’ve been busy meeting with the carriers and other stakeholders to implement the insurance reforms and set the essential health benefits that all plans must include.”

 

Image: A supporter of President Barack Obama reacts to positive predictions for her candidate as crowds watch election results in Times Square, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

Bernanke

John Nadel, a senior life insurance analyst at Sterne, Agee and Leach:

“My initial thoughts are Fed policy remains fully intact, meaning short term rates remain anchored and long term rates likely remain at historically low levels. The latter being much more critical to the life insurers given the nature of most of their liabilities — in other words continued pressure on earnings and returns. Separately, but no less harmful, is the likelihood that financial regulatory reforms continue to evolve unfavorably, resulting in higher capital and liquidity requirements, and also making the outlook for ROE improvement (a key driver of life stocks) clouded at a minimum.” 


Image: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke addresses a meeting of the Chicago Economic Club, Thursday, June 15, 2006, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey) 

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