The month of April is usually celebrated for many things… the blossoming of nature around us, the return of the Red Sox to Fenway Park, the joyous renewal of faith at Easter and Passover, and of course, the Boston Marathon.
This year, it feels like we are in a marathon of a different sort, all anxiously treading to get past Heartbreak Hill and reach the triumphant end of this pandemic. Here’s to the tireless efforts of our healthcare workers, research scientists and epidemiologists, who deliver compassionate care, medical treatment, innovation – and hopefully a vaccine in the not-too-distant future.
Aside from the health of our family, friends and coworkers, we are all dealing with heightened concern for the health of our economy. According to this recent blog post from the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, business confidence has plummeted in the state. We know that the impact on our members is dramatic, as businesses lay off staff or shutter their offices indefinitely. All we can do at this time is to stay positive, stay informed, and stay connected.
To that end, please remember you have the resources of NAHU and MassAHU to help. What do you need? How can we help you and your clients? Please let us know by calling or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting any of our board members – you can find us HERE on the MassAHU website.
Is Your MA Broker’s License Renewing?
If your license is currently up for renewal, you can still apply for renewal online and are encouraged to do so. However, the state has announced it will extend renewal applications for 90 days due to the state’s COVID-19 response. The state is also relaxing some of the CE requirements during this period. Here is the Division of Insurance Bulletin which has just been issued.
Beacon Hill Update
MassAHU lobbyist Jack Bartley shared some insights into Beacon HIll activities since the state’s shutdown. The Legislature and the Administration continue to be laser focused on COVID-19 matters. The unresolved problem for the House Speaker and Senate President is how to remotely legislate. All the sessions since the pandemic have been in so-called “informal sessions” where a single legislator can object – meaning the Ds & Rs have to agree.
The immediate challenge is passing the annual budget. The House typically passes its budget during the last week of April, followed by the Senate in late May. The Senate has been holding Zoom conferences with its 20 member body; however, compare that to the 160 members of the House and you can understand the conundrum the Speaker is dealing with.
Of course challenge is not only in how to effectively meet together, but how to create a budget in the face of such unprecedented disruption of business due to the pandemic. The members of the Joint Ways & Means Committee will meet this week with the Administration and several economists to discuss the future economy to help guide their efforts towards sound fiscal planning.
Merged Market Advisory Council Update
As we’ve seen our state’s Covid-19 response eclipse many other concerns on a state level, it’s not surprising that the schedule for the Merged Market Advisory Council has been extended into late spring. Nonetheless, the important work of this council continues. At the last meeting held via teleconference on March 11th, Bela Gorman presented findings from her firm’s actuarial study of the individual and small group market in this presentation. Questioning the significance of these findings, MassAHU is well represented by Mark Gaunya, past president of MassAHU and principal at Borislow Insurance. In a summary of the meeting, lobbyist Jack Bartley reports, “Mark continues to shape the discussions by professionally challenging the findings that the state’s actuary puts forth. It is fair to say that without that pushback, the state officials on the council and other members would not be aware that there could be other conclusions drawn – such as why some employers change their health insurance coverage.” You can read the recap of the March 11th meeting from our lobbyist’s office here.
The next meeting of the MMAC is now rescheduled to April 22nd and will be held via teleconference, with additional meetings planned into May. The MMAC website has not yet been updated with the revised meeting schedule and agenda, but we will keep you posted as details are published. If you have comments, questions, or recommendations to share with MassAHU and with our council representatives, please let us know.
Capitol Hill Update
Just a reminder to our members that NAHU’s Washington Update is sent to your email address every Friday afternoon. It is a great summary of happenings on a federal level. There are also frequent webinars offered to help members stay informed and advise their clients. If you are not getting the Washington Update, please check your member information on the NAHU website to make sure your email address is current. NAHU is requesting that members provide alternate email and phone contacts since many of our members have experienced a disruption in their normal business operations and are working from home.
With the loss of employer-based coverage for so many Americans due to layoffs and business closings, it is not surprising that there is and will continue to be renewed efforts to push for national health care. MassAHU board member David Shore shared some projections on what the impact on the employer-based market may be. “It is clear that the pandemic is going to translate into a major push to devolve employer-sponsored coverage and move toward a single-payer system, whether “Medicare for All” or any variant. According to recent analysis, if unemployment hits 25%, enrollment in employer-sponsored plans could drop to 128 million while Medicaid enrollment could reach upwards of 94 million. High unemployment would also increase the number of uninsured to 39 million – 40 million, estimates the report.”
NAHU is a founding member of the Alliance to Fight for Health Care, a broad-based coalition that supports employer-sponsored health coverage. The Alliance sent a letter to Congress urging them to provide: support for premium payments; federal subsidies to help pay for COBRA premiums; new funds or loans for businesses to preserve employee access to health benefits; and easy access to the individual insurance market.
Compliance Update – Employer Filing for FFCRA Tax Credits
This month’s compliance update from Attorney Rick Szczebak focuses on the reporting requirements for employers filing for tax credits under FFCRA. While it can be frustrating (and nearly impossible) to get answers from government entities, it is helpful to remember that Rick can be a great resource for your clients who have more complex needs that can’t be met with FAQs and written communications. To get started with the basics of filing for tax credits, here is his Members-Only update for April.
New MA Paid Family Leave Guidance Released
Contrary to how things seem lately, there is more to think about beyond COVID-19. The Massachusetts Paid Family Leave Act takes effect on January 1, 2021. The MA Division of Insurance has just released guidance for insurance carriers providing private options.
Previously, insurance carriers issued a declaration for employers to use as proof of satisfying the paid family and medical leave requirements, which are to commence by 1/1/21 for medical leave and 7/1/21 for family leave benefits. The new guidance includes a policy template which outlines the standard provisions to be included the private option.
NAHU Media Relations Request
We’re passing along a request from our national Media Relations team…
WE NEED YOUR HELP PROMOTING the VALUE of AGENTS and the EMPLOYER MARKET during the Coronavirus Pandemic! Please send us a short video or testimonial on the unique way you are helping your clients during the COVID-19 crisis. These stories will help promote your business as well as highlight the value of using agents and brokers during this global pandemic. Members of Congress and the Media are looking for these stories NOW!
All you need is your cell phone. It’s important to record no more than 90 seconds and to speak from your heart because genuine authenticity is what “sells.” Please share with us your unique way of helping your clients through these unprecedented times. Please email your video message (or if you are camera-shy, an email testimonial) to NAHU’s SVP of Public Relations, Kelly Loussedes, at email@example.com. Please also be sure to copy us in at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
A final word to say Thank You…
We really appreciate the efforts put forth by our members and by our carrier-partners during this national crisis. We especially want to acknowledge MassAHU’s 2020 Sponsors, including Platinum Partners Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care; Gold Sponsor Tufts Health Plan; Silver Sponsors Allways Health Plan and MA Health Connector; and Bronze Sponsor Health Services Administrators.
Thank you ALL for your compassion towards others, your creative problem-solving, your sharing of information, and your continued support of our association… YOUR association!