Mini meds: Looking beyond 2014

Framework Health Plan’s Brian Robertson (left) leads a panel discussion at the 2011 Benefits Selling Expo, April 7, 2011. (Photo by SharpShooter Imaging) Framework Health Plan’s Brian Robertson (left) leads a panel discussion at the 2011 Benefits Selling Expo, April 7, 2011. (Photo by SharpShooter Imaging)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ask brokers why limited medical coverage is important and there’s a simple answer: it provides choices.

So said panelists during Benefits Selling Expo’s day two session, “Limited Medical Panel: It Ain’t Over Yet.”

Brian Robertson, executive vice president of Fringe Benefit Group, moderated the event with panelists Charlie McLamb of Southern Benefits Plans; Lewer Agency Vice President John Owens and C.R. Duley, from Duley Bolwart Association.

A limited medical plan simply allows employers choices and supplemental coverage, they agreed. “If there are people who don’t go to the doctor and they want to pay as little as possible, this works for them,” Duley said.

Panelists discussed the Affordable Care Act and the implications it’s having on their business. Brokers are now required to turn in waiver requests to Health and Human Services, which calls for more communication between brokers and the employers who are purchasing the plans.

McLamb said the Act is really perplexing to a lot of clients and human resources staff, and that it’s the role of the brokers to help alleviate problems and concerns. To help, they are doing market analysis, consistently showing options and keeping the doors open, panelists said.

Owens said the limited medical plan options are usually an afterthought for employers, but are still an attractive option for employers who have part-time or hourly employees. When they talk to individual employees, “we’ll describe what it is and what it’s not,” Owens said. “It’s especially critical for people over the age of 45 and we’ll ask if they have serious conditions.”

With the new Act in progress, people are going to need to think about supplemental health coverage.

“You’re going to see these plans for some part-time folks that are going to need access to doctors or X-rays, but not necessarily a prescription plan,” McLamb said. “Companies involved in this business will evolve products and we may see these types of plans grow and go into middle and upper class. We can protect things that won’t be included in the outlook plan.”

Owens said he’s already been seeing the effect of this kind of coverage in other countries with universal health care: “We’ve been operating in Canada for 40 years and it’s an interesting market in that we provide a supplement, which is pretty much the same for everybody.”

Not only do they get more participation in Canada but “the quality is far better than what we offer here,” Owens said. “There’s a lot more discretion in income for those employees to buy those products.”

As for clients, most think it’s a positive option.“The feedback we get from employees is that they love it. They get to make decisions on today,” Duley said. “They aren’t looking at 2014; they want to keep their doors open.”

Owens warned that health brokers—and carriers—need to think beyond 2014: it’s not just about preparing for a future until January 2014, it’s about the future beyond that. But nothing is certain.

“The next 12 months will bring as many changes as the last 12 months. And we just don’t know,” Robertson said. “It’s important to be engaged.”

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