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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