Instead of relaxing on the deck and watching the fireflies, I’m spending four consecutive summer evenings this week glued to convention coverage on TV.
Behind all of the speeches, the cheering and the red-white-and-blue decorations, though, is something that every convention-watcher needs to be familiar with. You can’t see it, but it’s there. It’s the party platform and it’s a statement of what each presidential candidate and their party is supposed to stand for.
I was especially interested in what the Republicans have committed to words regarding health care reform, since that has a direct effect on our readers’ ability to serve their clients. Here is what Donald Trump and the GOP want to do:
1. Repeal the Affordable Care Act – no surprise there. “Repeal and replace,” “root and branch” – those are the phrases that ACA opponents have thrown around for years.
“A Republican President, on the first day in office, will use his legitimate waiver authority under that law to halt its progress and then will sign its repeal,” the platform reads. “Then the American people, through the free market, can advance affordable and responsible health care reform that meets the needs and concerns of patients and providers.”
2. Improve the quality of health care while lowering costs – how to accomplish this? In short, by returning health care decisions to the people and away from the federal government.
The GOP wants to increase health care choice and options while containing costs and reducing mandates. They want to simplify the health care system for patients and providers alike, and equalize the tax treatment of group and individual health insurance plans.
In addition, the GOP is calling for limiting federal requirements on private insurance. The party also wants to help all patients – even those with pre-existing conditions - obtain coverage through the use of reinsurance and risk adjustment. They also are calling for an end to discrimination against those who have pre-existing conditions and have maintained continuous insurance coverage.
When patients are aware of the cost of health care services upfront, they are more likely to use those services wisely, the GOP platform contends. So the Republicans are calling for greater transparency to enable consumers to know the cost of treatment ahead of time. This sounds good in theory but my guess is that when someone’s appendix is about to burst, it’s no time to begin comparison shopping for a surgeon.
The Republicans want to enable individuals and small businesses to form purchasing pools in order to expand coverage.
3. More consumer choice. The GOP is calling for portability of coverage, enabling workers to keep their coverage even as they switch employers. The Republicans want to allow consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines. An increased priority on health savings accounts, health reimbursement accounts and – for the elderly – an emphasis on home health care also is part of the platform.
My question in all of this is what role the individual agent will play in these changes. Will these proposals help the health insurance broker to remain a relevant and valued part of the health care scene? Or is this a lot of empty talk? Will the agent have a place to stand on this party platform?
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected].
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