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The Way We Do Business Is About to Change

There seems to be an agreement in the insurance industry that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the way we do business is likely to change—not just in the short-term, but also on a long-term basis. That doesn’t mean that we expect the coronavirus to be with us long term; we’re all hoping that isn’t the case. But it does mean that, during the COVID-19 lockdown, agents have developed some new habits that are likely to stay with us long after the health emergency is over and everyone is allowed to return to the office.

Back in January, before COVID-19 was a huge news story here in the U.S., we published an article about the benefits of working from home.

Short-Term Plans Growing in Popularity

A recent survey by Pivot Health finds that enrollment in short-term health plans is increasing amid the COVID-19 health crisis. Interestingly, the majority of people purchasing short-term coverage are not moving from an ACA-qualified “Obamacare” plan; in contrast, 26% of purchasers were previously uninsured.

It was last summer — July 19, to be exact — when a federal judge ruled in favor of the Trump administration’s expanded short-term plans, acknowledging “that the goal of the final rule was to allow short-term coverage to be sold ‘side-by-side’ with ACA coverage and that the final rule would undermine the ACA markets,” but disagreeing that increasing the duration of short-term plans from a maximum of three to 12 months would be “significantly destabilizing.”

How to Sell Health Insurance Over the Phone

After two months of sheltering in place, most brokers have figured out how to work from home. You’ve probably set up a workspace if you didn’t have one already, downloaded and mastered some type of virtual meeting software, and learned how to service your clients without going into the office. But have you actually been selling new business over the past few weeks? If not, perhaps you need to polish your phone sales skills.

The truth is that nobody knows how long the COVID-19 health crisis will last, but most people acknowledge that it’s not going away anytime soon. Even as some states begin to loosen their restrictions in an attempt to return to normal, a lot of people are understandably scared, and it will be a while before everyone is completely comfortable meeting face to face. In other words, for the foreseeable future, brokers will need to know not just how to take care how their current clients but how to sell new business from a distance.

Three Recent Changes to HSAs

As a result of the COVID-19 health crisis, lawmakers and federal regulators have made three recent changes to Health Savings Accounts, and one of those changes appears to be permanent.

2019 Contribution Deadline

As Forbes explains in a March 24 article, the IRS “has clarified that the deadline for making Individual Retirement Account and Health Savings Account contributions for the 2019 tax year has been extended to July 15, 2020.” This coincides with the new filing deadline for 2019 tax returns.

If it hasn’t happened already, your clients who have a Health Savings Account should soon receive form 5498-SA from their HSA administrator. This document shows their total contributions for the previous tax year and is sent out every year in late April or May. If an account holder takes advantage of this opportunity to make HSA contributions for 2019 through mid-July, he or she should receive an amended form 5498-SA from the HSA administrator following the contribution.

Florida leads nation in ACA enrollment, but is that enough?

The state of Florida has more people enrolled in ACA individual coverage through than any other state in the nation, and it’s not particularly close. According to a list published by CMS:

  • Florida has more than 1.9 million enrollments
  • Texas is second with 1.1 million enrollments
  • North Carolina occupies the third spot with just over half a million enrollments

This list does not include the 11 states and Washington D.C. which do not use the federal marketplace because they have set up their own state-based exchanges. (Click here to view a state-by-state list maintained by the Kaiser Family Foundation.) Those states account for about 25% of ACA enrollment according to Reuters.

Who will pay for the Coronavirus?

People around the world are understandably nervous about COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus. To date, nearly 900,000 people have tested positive for the rapidly-spreading respiratory illness, and the world-wide death toll now tops 40,000. In the United States, more than 190,000 cases had been reported as of April 1, with at least 4,000 deaths according to Worldometer, which tracks cases in real time. Unfortunately, all of those numbers are expected to rise.

Fear over the outbreak has caused the stock market to nosedive, the CDC to issue warnings against non-essential travel, schools and universities to cancel classes, and stores to sell out of hand sanitizer and disinfectant. It is also prompting questions about who will pay for Coronavirus testing and treatment.

Who needs an insurance mandate?

It’s now been a full year since the individual mandate penalty was reduced to zero, so we wanted to take a quick look at the impact this change could have on the future of the Affordable Care Act.

ACA lawsuit

One big effect of removing the penalty from the individual mandate is that it can no longer be deemed a tax, and for that reason a federal appeals court ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional. As we explain in a recent blog post [link to the post], the case has been sent back to a lower court to determine which ACA provisions, if any, can be severed from the mandate. The plaintiffs in the case are relying on the 2015 decision in King v. Burwell, which concluded that Congress intended for the individual mandate to work hand in hand with the guarantee issue provision and the premium tax credits, in making their argument that the entire law should be found unconstitutional. Here’s an excerpt from the 2015 decision:

ACA decision unlikely before election

On December 18, 2019, a federal appeals court in New Orleans ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, calling into question the future of the entire law.

In a 2-1 decision, the court found that the individual mandate is no longer a tax since the penalty has been reduced to zero. As explained in an article by Kevin Daley with The National Interest, “the mandate is no longer raising revenue,” and therefore “cannot be justified as a tax.”

CMS transition to new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier is complete

As AHCP first reported nearly two years ago, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been working to replace everyone’s Medicare card and assign them a new Medicare number, known as a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). As of January 1, 2020, that process is complete and CMS will no longer process claims that are submitted with the old number.

Why are they doing this?

As Experian explains, “The shift to MBIs is an effort to protect patient information and address the vulnerabilities that come with relying on Social Security Numbers (SSN) to verify patient identities.”

CMS elaborates on this goal, which is “To decrease Medicare Beneficiary vulnerability to identity theft by removing the SSN-based HICN from their Medicare identification cards and replacing the HICN with a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI).”

Plan F no longer an option for new Medicare beneficiaries

As a reminder, Medicare supplement plan F is no longer an option for new Medicare enrollees. Anyone aging into or signing up for Medicare on or after January 1, 2020, will not be able to purchase a Plan F Medigap plan. Plan C is also being eliminated as an option for new enrollees.

AHCP first wrote about this change in December 2018, so hopefully you were prepared, but we wanted to share a reminder since you may have clients—including existing Medicare supplement clients—who have questions about this development.

California Consumer Privacy