Last April at Benefits Selling Expo in San Diego, there was a lot of strategic talk about the looming employer mandate. Brokers were speculating that as much as a third of their employer groups would cease offering benefits altogether. With a projection of millions of uninsured individuals moving into 2014 with brand new coverage bought through the exchanges (and without agent assistance), I've heard a lot of "woe is me" talk. It seemed we were entering "The Bronze Age" of benefits, and brokers would be going the way of the woolly mammoth.

Of course, shortly after the expo, changes to the law began, starting with the employer mandate delay. Now several months into 2014, there have been a number of delays, extensions and changes to PPACA.

Allow me to speculate as to the rationale behind the PPACA at its inception. Legislators were attempting to provide health insurance coverage to some 26 million uninsured Americans. In theory, these people were uninsured due to:

  • Lack of access — no plan offered by their employer, or
  • Lack of access due to pre-existing conditions, or
  • Lack of access due to unaffordable premiums.

So it would appear that PPACA should solve all of these problems through the employer mandate, prohibition against pre-existing conditions, and subsidies. And it would be reasonable — since "too expensive" was one of the major hurdles pre-PPACA, to expect that the bronze plans would be flying off the proverbial shelves. Yet, according to official numbers, only 19 percent of those who had obtained coverage as of the end of January had opted for bronze.

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