Member Update – June 2020

We hope you are getting back into the swing of things at work and at play, as more people become vaccinated and the risks of serious illness diminish. Since our last email update, MassAHU has been busy keeping abreast of changes in the market, reviewing proposed legislation, and strategizing for the future. Please read on to see what we’ve been up to.

Thank you, President Shadrick!

Matt Shadrick, who will be completing his two-year term as president of MassAHU in July, had a leadership experience none of us could have imagined. In spite of the difficulties we all faced in doing business over the past year, he brought us through the year strong and vital, with optimism for the road ahead. Please join us in expressing our gratitude and appreciation for his leadership – which fortunately is not over, as he will continue to serve on the Board of Directors as our Immediate Past President.

New Slate of Directors Proposed for July 1, 2021

Succession planning is important to building and maintaining strong organizations, whether business, community, or professional organizations like ours. The MassAHU Board of Directors has given much consideration to our future leadership in this year’s nominations. The board is proposing a slate of officers and directors, which we will now present to our full membership for a vote of acceptance. Normally, this is done in person at Benefest, but we are asking for an email vote in the absence of a live meeting.

If you are a current member of MassAHU, please send an email to info@massahu.org, indicating that you either APPROVE or DO NOT APPROVE of the proposed leadership. Please do so by June 29, 2021. The proposed slate is attached here for your review. Send your vote in today!

The proposed officers are:

Bill Stuart, President;

Eric Gulko, Vice President;

Matt Shadrick, Immediate Past President;

Joe Lawler, Treasurer; and

Greg Puig, Secretary.

We are pleased that all of our current Directors are remaining on the Board, and that we will be adding two new members – Brian Garity, CEO of Garity Advantage, and TJ Hannon, President of New England Enrollment Strategies. With the addition of Brian and TJ, we are enhancing our industry focus to include the growing market for Medicare and Senior Products, as well as the growth in Voluntary Worksite Products. 

Hats off to our new President, Bill Stuart, our newest members Brian and TJ, and all of our dedicated Board of Directors. Thank you for stepping up to meet the needs of our professional association! 

State Legislative Update

For those of you who attended our Zoom Tuesday program in March, you now have a better understanding of the legislative process and the sheer volume of bills that are introduced into the legislature every year. With over 600 dockets filed for the biennial session (2021-2022), it is a huge undertaking to go through the bills, identify those that are significant to our association, establish our position on issues, identify stakeholders and key legislators, and implement a strategy for influencing the outcome. As a refresher for those who attended, and as a primer for those who did not, here is the PowerPoint presentation from the program. 

The full Legislative Committee met again on June 17th to dive into the key focus areas we’ve identified – mental health, provider reimbursements, prescription drugs, market reform, market oversight/regulations, and mandated benefits. Anyone who is interested in helping to research and develop our position and talking points on any of the key focus areas, please email us at info@massahu.org, to be part of the focus group. We’re hoping to have our draft position statements completed within the next several weeks, so we really appreciate hearing from members who may have special interest or experience in these areas.

In May, Legislative Chair Eric Gulko testified before the Joint Committee on Financial Services. This is a very important committee within the MA Legislature, and is headed by Representative James (Jamie) Murphy and Senator Brendan Crighton. After having met with Jamie Murphy last year, Eric had an opportunity to (re)acquaint the committee with MassAHU, what we do, and whom we represent. We are following up with a thank-you note to all the committee members with our contact information as we lay the groundwork for connecting with legislators on issues of importance in the future.

Also in May, MassAHU signed onto a letter with MAHP opposing several amendments filed in the Senate version of the budget. That letter is attached HERE. In a vote just before Memorial Day, all but one of the amendments we opposed were withdrawn, providing a significant victory for our efforts and those of MAHP and other groups who signed on. To the extent that we can influence the outcome of future budget and legislation, we will monitor and weigh in on issues of significance to our market.

Federal Legislative Update

Are you wondering what the broker compensation disclosure requirements are going to be when they become effective at the end of this year? There is a lot of ambiguity in the language, and there is a lot of concern for the administrative nightmare that can develop if the regulations are not well thought out. NAHU issued comments to HHS/DOL earlier this month. We are anxious to see what the response is, so that we, our employer clients and our carrier partners can establish reporting. But in the meantime, if you’d like to see where some of those stumbling blocks may be, here is a copy of NAHU’s letter. Marcy Buckner also addressed this topic in NAHU Power Hour this month. If you missed it, be sure to look for the recording on the NAHU website. 

On the Medicare front, bipartisan legislation has been introduced to address Medicare benefits eligibility for skilled nursing care following a hospitalization. If you are in the Medicare market, or if you have ever had a loved one who got ‘caught’ in being classified in observation status (vs. admitted as an inpatient), you are familiar with the 3-day rule. The proposed legislation will fix this problem, and we’re asking members and their clients, friends and family members to support this legislation through Operation Shout, using these links: 

Link to House Operation Shout: https://nahu.quorum.us/campaign/33575/

Link to Senate Operation Shout: https://nahu.quorum.us/campaign/33822/

As we look to July 1st, we want to extend best wishes to Mark Gaunya, past president of MassAHU and current member of our Board of Directors, as he leads the NAHU Legislative Council for the next year. We’re fortunate to have a ‘direct line’ to national, and we know that Mark’s passion for private market solutions and transparency will guide his success. 

Compliance Update

Employers are still trying to get up to speed with new COBRA rules, FSA rules, and other regulations which have been amended with the pandemic. If you missed the latest NAHU Compliance Webinar, NAHU members can access the recordings through NAHU. The state is also getting into the action. Governor Baker issued a mandate for employers to provide Emergency COVID-Related Sick Leave to their employees through September 29, 2021. To read more about this new sick leave benefit for Massachusetts workers, Attorney Rick Szczebak has written this compliance update for MassAHU. 

Do you have a compliance question? There are a few ways you can get help through our association. First of all, you can view any of the archived compliance webinars on the NAHU web site. You don’t need to sit through the entire recorded session if you want to simply scroll through the related PowerPoint presentation to find out more on the topic in question. Second, you can join any of the discussion groups in NAHU B2B, pose your question and hear from other members from around the country. If you have never been on B2B and don’t know how to register for a discussion group, we can guide you through it. Third, you can write to NAHU staff for assistance by emailing your question to compliance@nahu.org. And last but not least, we do field questions from our members right here at MassAHU, so if you have a question (especially when it is state related and the NAHU resources aren’t as familiar with MA laws), ask and we’ll try to get you the information you need!

Member Appreciation Event this Fall!

One of the most difficult changes we experienced during the pandemic was the loss of face-to-face interaction and networking within our industry. We really missed seeing our fellow board members (although we continued to have frequent virtual board meetings throughout the year). We missed seeing our members and carrier partners at Benefest. We missed welcoming new members into the association. It even seemed like our email updates were going into a silent space at times. So we are REALLY looking forward to hosting a member appreciation event this fall, while we also work to secure a date for Benefest next spring. We hope that everyone is eager to meet up again and will join us for both events. Watch for more information and an invitation soon!

Are you Attending NAHU’s National Convention?

With the uncertainty of being able to gather together this summer, our convention will be 100% virtual again this year. That presents an opportunity for brokers to attend a national event for only $99. Take a few moments to look at the speakers, professional development and national exhibitors/sponsors. You will see the value of attending, even if you have a client meeting and have to miss some of the live programming, because you can catch up on it later in the day/week. While there’s still time, REGISTER TODAY

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Member Update – January/February 2021

As we open the new year to new opportunities, we want to be well equipped to handle the challenges that come with those new opportunities. Membership in an industry association like MassAHU, a state-level chapter of NAHU, is vital to our ability to continue to evolve in our profession and to serve the ever-changing needs of our clients. At MassAHU, we are committed to supporting your professional growth and personal success in employee benefits with advocacy and customized programs for the Massachusetts market. We hope our commitment to your success is matched by your commitment to influencing the market through membership in this association. If you are already a NAHU/MassAHU member, thank you for your support! If you are not a member yet, please JOIN TODAY!

News from The State

With longtime House Speaker DeLeo stepping down in 2021, new House Speaker Ron Mariano is taking the leadership reins. Although things are starting off slowly, we anticipate a busy legislative year ahead. We look forward to ‘digging in’ to the new legislative session and working with our lobbyist and other industry groups on key issues. Be sure to attend our Zoom Tuesday program on March 2nd to learn more about our state agenda.

In the meantime, here is a brief status from Jack Bartley:  

The 2021-2022 legislative session is moving at a very slow pace, given the pandemic and various outbreaks of COVID. This has forced leadership to keep the State House closed to the public, with all but essential staff reporting in to run the informal sessions. The 19 newly elected legislators do not have office space yet, and due to COVID will not meet in the traditional large State House conference room “bullpen office.” Senate President Karen Spilka and new House Speaker Mariano will be announcing new leadership posts and committee assignments in the coming weeks. There are several key committee vacancies, including leadership of the important Joint Health Care Finance Committee, so we will be watching this closely to report back to MassAHU.  

The pandemic has also impacted filing of bills for the new biennial session – the two-year cycle of introducing (or in many cases, reintroducing) legislation in our state. The filing deadline for House and Senate members has been extended to February 19th. We are monitoring early bill filings and will develop our list of priority bills to monitor and take action.

Virtual NAHU Capitol Conference February 22-24th

Every year, a few members of MassAHU go to Washington, DC, for the NAHU Capitol Conference. It is an awesome and memorable experience to be joined by several hundred brokers from across the country, to hear speakers from both parties of the House and Senate, gain insights from national think tank experts, political analysts, and governmental agencies, and to meet with our elected representatives on Capitol Hill. Capitol Conference 2021 will be held virtually for the first time ever, which is disappointing in some ways, but it also means that people can attend through the virtual platform without the added time and expense of being away from home for three days.

Mark Gaunya, past president of MassAHU and current member of the board, has been selected to chair the NAHU Legislative Council for 2021-22 and the 2021 Capitol Conference.  Under Mark’s leadership, this year’s program will be inspiring and informative, touching on key issues facing the market. Please take a few minutes to learn more in this short video about Capitol Conference 2021, and view the agenda and list of speakers, including Dr. Deepak Chopra as this year’s keynote. Even if you can’t attend every program at the time it is presented, your registration will enable you to go back and view presentations afterwards.  

We’d like to give a special shout-out to Health Plans Inc, Harvard Pilgrim, and Tufts Health Plan for their support of NAHU. Not only have they demonstrated their commitment to Massachusetts brokers and MassAHU, but they stepped into the national arena to support our advocacy efforts on a national basis through NAHU. We thank them for their continuing partnership with MassAHU as they unveil their new merger in health insurance, and we are proud to see their name in front of the nation at Capitol Conference for their sponsorship of the keynote speaker.

Next Zoom Tuesday Discussion:
Massachusetts Legislative Priorities
March 2nd, 10:00 AM


Our February Zoom Tuesday program focused on the federal legislative landscape, and our March discussion will turn its focus to the state of Massachusetts! Please join Eric Gulko, MassAHU state legislative chair, as he discusses our 2021 legislative priorities with legislative counsel Jack Bartley and other members of our legislative leadership team. REGISTER NOW!

Did You Miss Our February Zoom Tuesday Program?


Use these links to access a recording of the Zoom session and view the presentation materials from the Federal Legislative Priorities discussion:

  • Session Recording: 
    CLICK HERE
    and enter Passcode +iYS6AU8 
  • Presentation by Marcy Buckner, SVP of Government Relations at NAHU:
    CLICK HERE
  • Presentation by James Slotnick, AVP of Government Relations for Sun Life:
    CLICK HERE
     

April 1 Small Group Rate Filings

More often than not, we seem to struggle with getting timely notice of small group rates for April 1 renewals, and 2021 is no exception. This delay creates uncertainty for our clients and their employees, while we brokers scramble to find alternatives to plans that no longer fit our clients’ needs, either due to rate increases or plan design changes. As of this writing, the Division of Insurance has filed a Notice of Disapproval for one carrier’s rates and held hearings to review their rate filings. We hope that rates are approved and available by the time you read this update, but just in case you are still waiting, remember that it is always good to be proactive with your clients, letting them know the reason for delay, and reassuring them that you will communicate news about their renewal as soon as possible. Also, it helps to communicate early and to discuss alternatives just in case a change is warranted… but you already knew that.

MA Health Connector Approves Increase in Broker Compensation

The MA Health Connector Board met on December 28th and approved an increase in the PMPM fees for employer groups of 5-9 employees and 10+ employees. No increase was recommended for 1-4 person groups. Shelley Kalieta from Beacon Hill Consulting Group attended the meeting and provided a detailed summary of the meeting, in which the Connector shared details on buying trends and new business results for 2020. If you are a broker working in the small group market and you have clients who would benefit from the unique ability to purchase multiple carriers through the Connector’s “Choice Model,” you can find out how to become certified to sell and service Connector business HERE.

MassAHU is appreciative of the Connector’s acknowledgement of the expertise and effort put forth by licensed brokers in helping employers and individual consumers in Massachusetts, and in addressing parity on and off exchange. However, it remains an issue that brokers are not compensated for assisting individual consumers on the Connector. Given the impact of the pandemic in movement from group to individual coverage, and the amount of work involved for brokers to assist employees’ transition from group to individual coverage, we will continue to advocate for parity in the market.

Merged Market Advisory Council (MMAC) Update

The MMAC has additional meetings scheduled into March 2021 as final recommendations are being submitted to the council for review and consideration. MassAHU submitted its recommendations to the MMAC in January, and we hope to be included in future discussion as final recommendations are submitted to the Governor this spring. A copy of our submission is included HERE.

We’ll also be reviewing our guiding principles and recommendations in the Zoom Tuesday program on March 2nd, so don’t forget to register! As the council’s work marks a year of hard work, we’d like to thank broker representatives Mark Gaunya and Rose Lopes, who have been invaluable in bringing their perspective and market expertise to the MMAC. We are grateful to them for their time and dedication to the council’s purpose. Shelley Kalieta has also been invaluable in documenting the council meetings for MassAHU, and she shares her notes from the January meeting HERE.

Compliance Update

Our compliance update this month deals, not surprisingly, with the implementation of the MA-PFMLA. The first bulletin announces the official launch of the new state-mandated benefit in January 2021 and describes claim information for ‘public option’ plans. The second bulletin dissects the state’s notice to an employer that an employee has opened a claim with the state, and the information needed to prepare for the state’s review of the claim.  

What’s on Your Mind?  MassAHU is yourassociation and we want to ensure that we help you not only to survive but to thrive (as the saying goes) in the year ahead. We hope to deliver on our commitment to you, but we are not mind readers! So, if you have ideas on how to make us better as an association, or how to help you be better in your business or profession, please let us know. No virtual meeting required – send an email to info@massahu.org, leave a voicemail at 508.634.7373, or even a text message to 508.330.8270 works. We really want to hear from you! And until we can meet in person, we’ll gladly respond to your message!

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