Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Employer Sponsored Insurance: Behind the Little Tree is Obamacare's Forest

Obamacare was passed with a promise to reduce premiums, elevate the level of care we receive, and put an end to rising health care costs. It was also promised that everyone would have access to good insurance and that if we liked our plans we could keep them. These promises have gone empty, yet in the eye of public perception, the favorability/unfavorability of the law (according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Poll) is tracking close to even. However, the most important question that is asked, but not discussed, is what will lead to changes in views in the next few years.

For now, the favorable perception can be attributed to the fact that Obamacare is front loaded with warm and fuzzy feel good benefits. From "free" benefits like birth control and preventive visits, to the slacker rule - keeping your "kid" on insurance to age 26 - every provision of the law that has been implemented has a positive result.

On-the-other-hand, things that have a negative impact have been repealed, cancelled, delayed, or extended. We have had a repeal of the 1099's and CLASS Act, an offer to extend "transitional" policies (the lie that if you like your plan you can keep it), and numerous delays in employer reporting including a year long delay in the employer mandate. We also haven't felt the impact of "indexing" which will increase what people have to pay for premiums while reducing benefits.

In keeping with the "kick the can down the road" theme, two new pieces of legislation are gaining momentum. One is to repeal the Health Insurance Tax and the other - introduced today - is to eliminate the Cadillac Tax.

These taxes, reduced benefits, higher costs, and administrative burdens will increase over the next few years. Moreover, they will reach the employer sponsored markets impacting a much larger share of our population (roughly 55% of our population are covered by their employer). 

Which takes us to the most important question asked when discussing public views on Obamacare:
"Would you say the health care law has directly helped you and your family, directly hurt you and your family, or has it not had a direct impact?"
It's not who has been helped (19%) or hurt (22%) by the law. It's the significant majority of respondents - 56%!!! - who have felt no direct impact.

It's not a coincidence that the respondent percentage is almost identical to those with employer insurance. It shows that until Obamacare is fully implemented and a majority feels an impact, public opinion will see little change.

But until then, we will still be focused on the trees and completely be overlooking the forest.

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