Give Us Something We Can Use

Monday, January 24, 2011
“Mr. Cunix?”

I recognized that voice.

“This is Belinda Prinz from Congresswoman Marcia Fudge’s office.”

Regular readers know that I have mentioned my Congresswoman a couple of times in my two blogs. We also know that Congresswoman Fudge, or her staff, are regular readers. Ms. Prinz even commented on the August 30, 2010 post, Choosing Sides.

Belinda Prinz must have drawn the short straw. There is no doubt that she considered herself fortunate that she reached my voicemail instead of me. Her assignment was doomed to failure. She was on a fool’s errand and the longer she talked, the more apparent it became to her.

One of Congresswoman Fudge’s other staffers had called the Beachwood Chamber of Commerce and had talked with our Executive Director, Wayne Lawrence. He suggested that she call me. What did the Congresswoman want?

“We would like to know the name of a small business that can now provide insurance benefits to its employees because of the tax credits in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We want to tell their story.”

Yes, Congresswoman Fudge is desperate to find someone, anyone, who has benefited from last year’s legislative train wreck.

Let’s think about this for just a second. We would need to find a small business that
* Didn’t provide health insurance
* Wasn’t motivated by the tax deductibility of health insurance premiums
* Doesn’t pay its employees very well
* Is making enough profit that the tax credit is irresistible

Does that sound like any business you know? Of course not. Will Congresswoman Fudge or one of her cohorts find a couple of examples somewhere in this country? I like their odds. Still, it might be worthwhile to research the details when they trot out their success stories.

It is far easier to find the victims of last year’s legislation. There are businesses that fear my phone calls, worried that this year’s renewal rates will be more than they can spend. My restaurants and other clients that employ lots of unskilled and semi-skilled workers are very worried about the planned tax/fee/penalty to be assessed to businesses that don’t provide group health insurance. The saddest and most immediate blow was dealt to parents.

Proponents of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act love to note that children are now guaranteed issue. Insurance companies can no longer refuse to cover a minor due to preexisting conditions. Fearing the inevitable dumping of unhealthy children from group (employer sponsored) policies to individual contracts, the insurance companies simply stopped selling Child,Only policies.

The few unhealthy uninsured children of families that neither qualified for group health insurance or Medicaid are still uninsured. This will not change for another couple of years, if ever. But the negative impact was immediate.

Janet (name changed) works for a large property management company. Her employer’s new policy, as of February 1st, will cost her only $60 per month. That is the price for just her, the employee. The premium for her and her two daughters would be just a touch over $500 per month. Employers across the country are cutting back. One way to save money is to pay only a portion of the employee’s health insurance. If the employee wants to cover a spouse and children, he/she will be charged the difference.

A year ago I could have written great coverage on Janet’s two healthy daughters for less than $200 per month. Janet would have stayed on the employer’s plan, placed the girls with Anthem or MMO, and saved over $2,000. Janet even had the option of choosing a higher deductible and saving even more. Today? Nothing!

Janet has two options. She can stay on her employer’s plan and work for the insurance or she and her two daughters can purchase a fully underwritten individual (non-group) policy. She chose a high deductible health plan that will cost her $194 per month for the three of them. Is this the best solution? Of course not. But Congresswoman Fudge and her friends killed the best solution last March.

I didn’t return Ms. Prinz’s phone call. I don’t know of any businesses or employees who have benefitted from her boss’s efforts. And I have no reason to believe that our Congresswoman has any interest in learning about the collateral damage.

Besides, we know they are reading this. We just don’t know if they care enough to make any changes.

DAVE

www.bcandb.com