If You Don't Know What To Do, Do Nothing

Friday, September 17, 2010
My business is on hold. I’m not talking about the phones. I’m not talking figuratively. Literally, a major portion of my business is on hold. There is so much uncertainty, so little clarity, that I am, for the next few days, unable to write new individual health insurance policies through the largest insurers in this area.

I first noticed this about a week ago. One of my Anthem clients has a policy renewing October 1st. The new premium wasn’t too bad, but she wanted to know about other options. I couldn’t locate the link on their website. Admitting computer illiteracy, I sent a request in to Agency Services. I was shocked by Anthem’s response. The link was removed because there are no options. I was asked to resubmit my request after September 23rd. Anthem is waiting to see what the federal government is going to do.

Thirty-two years in the business and this is the first time I’ve ever seen an insurer tread water. I decided to run a quote for her as if she was a new client. My software said “Tilt”. Anthem’s online quoting had this note: “Plans and rates effective 9/23/10 and after will be available as soon as our Health Care Reform compliant plans are available for sale." If you need a new health insurance policy, Anthem is not an option. At least, not today.

Medical Mutual of Ohio is still quoting. In fact, MMO will quote their entire product line, but all applications with an effective date of September 23rd or later won’t be issued if children are to be included in the plan. Family policies are put on Underwriting Hold. The applications aren’t declined. They certainly aren’t issued. These potential policies are in limbo.

What can the insurer’s do? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a shell of goals and half-baked concepts. The rules and regs are still being written and many will apply, retroactively, to March 21, 2010. And, the insurers had better not complain. Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services, is threatening any insurer who informs its clients of the actual costs associated with this scheme.

We have discussed the whole grandfather issue in previous posts. Grandfathering separates which business might escape some of these new rules for awhile and who will be impacted immediately. Businesses covered by Aetna don’t have to waste anytime studying the grandfather provisions. Between the recently written regulations and a couple of Aetna’s decisions, no Aetna small group health policy qualifies to be grandfathered.

Children are a key part of next week’s problems. Can they be underwritten? Can the insurance industry really cover every preexisting condition for every child, with no limits, without raising the price of policies? How much is enough? Who is going to pay?

Since we have never had an honest discussion about price or goals, we have arrived, six months into this grand experiment, at a crossroads. Some form of nationalized health care still appears inevitable, but the President and Congress refuse to put their cards on the table. Without taking the time to clearly define the goals and costs, we are at the first of several predictable impasses.

The insurers will be happy to sell supplements to the future government health plan. UNUM has already released the first plans specifically designed for that. Assurant and UnitedHealth One have new accident and dental policies. What are they supplementing? The federal government has done a great job of pressuring the insurance companies, but it is ill prepared to handle its part of the program.

So, a major portion of my business is on hold. If you and your family need coverage as of October 1st, I may, or may not, be able to help you. I hope to know more by next Thursday.

DAVE

www.bogartcunix.com