Producers blast State of the Union’s Obamacare update

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“Ridiculous,” “bad,” and “atrocious” are just a few of the words independent agents and brokers have for President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law and his defense of it in last night’s State of the Union address.

Expected to address some of the ongoing issues with the federal exchange site and the lack of young, healthy Americans signing up for coverage, Obama instead focused on the improvements the Affordable Care Act has made in individual lives.

“For decades, few things exposed hard-working families to economic hardship more than the broken healthcare system,” the President said. “And in case you haven’t heard, we’re in the process of fixing that.”

Obama related the story of Arizona resident Amanda Shelley who received health insurance that allowed her to afford a necessary emergency surgery. Before healthcare reform, he said, Shelley would have been denied coverage.

“That’s what health insurance reform is all about—the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don’t have to lose everything.”

That kind of success story isn’t shared by everyone, however, pointed out Matt Schwartz, president of the Kentucky Association of Health Underwriters.

“There’s happy people and unhappy people,” Schwartz told Insurance Business earlier this month. “If you’re a high-risk individual or a little older, you’re suddenly paying a lot less for insurance. You’re pretty thrilled. If you’re a small business, though, you’re wondering how you’re going to do this.”

“Some of our small group clients are not going to be able to afford insurance anymore, and they’re the ones who have healthy employees,” he added. “We definitely have that concern.”

Schwartz did say, however, that he agreed that “everybody should have some sort of insurance plan.”

“It’s the right thing to do,” he commented.

IBA reader Norm Strehlow was even more forceful in his comments this morning.

“Congratulations to Mr. Obama for…finding at least one person who has benefitted from ACA,” Strehlow, a certified insurance counselor, wrote. “Unfortunately, he forgot to mention the large majority of Americans that have been adversely affected by ACA with loss of their desired providers, increased premiums, increased out of pocket maximums, forced coverage they do not want, or sometimes all of the above.”

Not all producers expressed unhappiness about health reform or its coverage in Obama’s State of the Union address, however. Merilee DeForest, owner of Strategy Insurance Brokers in Olympia, Wash., said she has seen positive changes in her clients’ lives, as well as her own.

“So far, so good,” DeForest said. “I’m Obamacare all the way, and when people complain to me, I don’t say anything.”

Did you watch the State of the Union address last night? What did you think of how President Obama addressed concerns with healthcare reform?

  • James Kenyon on 1/29/2014 11:38:42 AM

    Ms. DeForest, as an independent agent (I assume) you very well know that ObamaCare is good for some people and bad for many more. Your lack of impartiality is regrettable.

  • Maria on 1/29/2014 11:39:18 AM

    He didn't address anything, just had a few success stories but forgot about the unsuccessful!

  • Machell Testerman on 1/29/2014 11:39:49 AM

    Once again he searches for and highlights small accomplishments but for the majority of the people in America they are still waiting for some type of significant help. He downplays the problems with his Obama care. For the person who doesn't say anything to his client who complains-not responding is not helping. You could ask specifically what is not being met and try to address that.

  • Tanya Burns on 1/29/2014 11:42:21 AM

    The small business owner in Florida is getting hit Very Hard with rate increases in excess of 35%..... with Few options for relief. The employee now insuring multiple children will be hit with a separate cost for Each child.....ending up to be more costly to cover dependents....and the Exchange premiums offer Little or No cost
    savings. Clients are struggling. I am meeting with a long-time physician owner next week who is getting hit All Ways. They are being forced by ACA to cover pediatric eye care & so far have not been told if they will be reimbursed for these services. They are strongly considering dropping their employee benefits. This echoes many of our small group clients. Everyone is really "dreading" their renewal news.

  • Nathan Terrell on 1/29/2014 11:42:23 AM

    Obama did not address the UnAffordable Health Care Act!! He did what every politician does, skirted the problem with "feel good" examples, when in reality, most folks, can't afford the increase in premium. and are having problems signing up without the help of an agent or some other person to help Navigate the broken website!

  • JDB on 1/29/2014 11:44:41 AM

    Bad President, Bad Law and Ms De Forest Blind advisor.

  • Charles Owens on 1/29/2014 11:50:41 AM

    Some of our clients have seen large reductions in premiums. So far so good for Virginia.
    Must say I was totally against ACA initially.

  • Arthro on 1/29/2014 11:53:41 AM

    Deforest is obviously overlooking reality in favor of her political bias. When people complain to her, she doesn't say anything. She must get that a lot. I know I do.

  • Norm Strehlow, CIC on 1/29/2014 11:55:38 AM

    I'm truly happy for Ms. Amanda Shelley who was able to obtain coverage needed for her emergency surgery. However, as Mr. Matt Schwartz points out, health insurance like all insurances is intended to help out if "Misfortune Strikes". I have been an agent for 39 years and have NEVER been able to secure coverage for any of my clients "after the barn's on fire". The ACA contradicts that concept by allowing folks to obtain coverage "after the fire has started". So, let's stop calling this Insurance but rather another "Entitlement" which will be subsidized by our Tax Dollars! When will the insanity end??

  • Pat Hendershott on 1/29/2014 11:56:06 AM

    He is so out of touch...working in an insurance office and watching what the health dept has to deal with...he is clueless as usual....what does he have to worry about...he will be taken care of the rest of his life!

  • Mike on 1/29/2014 12:00:11 PM

    Mr Obama is probably a nice guy, but unfortunately he's the worse president I've seen in 44 yrs of voting. He consitently demostrates an inability to govern this nation. There's a whole laundry list of this adminstration's failures and scandels. Obamacare is just another one of them. He generally gets a pass from the media. I just hope voters get off their I phones,wait up, and vote in a real leader whoo can govern effectively next time.

  • Scott West on 1/29/2014 12:04:32 PM

    PPACA was never about "affordable" health insurance; if that were the case, the law would have been exclusively about reforms needed to reduce delivery costs. PPACA is about control. We're going to be the poorer for this, only those who play the game at the federal level are going to make out like bandits.

  • Mike Hall on 1/29/2014 12:05:55 PM

    It's not surprising to me what the current leader of the once greatest country in the world says or doesn't say these days. I feel sorry for him; he is absolutely in over his head, he knows it and the whole world is witnessing it....a very embarrassing moment in time for us all!

  • Jim on 1/29/2014 12:09:24 PM

    Hey Norm, the insanity will end when all the tea party members are committed to an institution! Obama won 2 elections,get over it.

  • John Butterbaugh on 1/29/2014 12:18:27 PM

    Obamacare isn't about healthcare. If it were, he would not have just bad mouthed the insurance industry when he was trying to get support. If it was about healthcare, he would have brought in the hospitals, doctors and pharmaceuticals and worked on healthcare and not just health insurance. This is about redistribution of wealth and government control. That people are getting hurt by this is the whole point. Don't get caught up in all the misdirection from this administration. He knows what he is doing and is being successful.

  • RC ,Broker in Massachusetts on 1/29/2014 12:24:12 PM

    You haven't seen anything yet. Wait until this summer when the numbers and assumptions made are going to be WAY off target. Marco Rubio's proposed bill NOT to bail out the public exchanges insurance carriers should be passed. Of course the premiums will become even more UNaffordable when we Do bail them out of their poor planning. The thing I hate most about the law, as with everything else the president has touched, will be to give it away and have us worker bees, pay for it.
    What an oxymoron the ACA is!

  • Terry Welty on 1/29/2014 12:24:24 PM

    I think Obama is just being consistent! The reasons for the law were... Insurance companies and agents make insurance buying too complicated, the rates are too high, we will make the market more competitive, we'll stop the annual premium increases, insurance companies will cancel you if you get sick, insurance companies will increase your premiums if you get sick... so, I'm not surprised that the lies just keep rolling off his lips... at least he's getting those nasty tobacco smokers penalized... guess it's ok if you smoke crack, just not tobacco...

  • GRS on 1/29/2014 12:32:43 PM

    I watched about 10 minutes then fell asleep with the most boring State of the Union yet - which country was he talking about... the next news story was of how the Queen of England is spending to much with a staff of over 400

  • Linda Hogan on 1/29/2014 12:40:51 PM

    I have a man that has had individual coverage for himself and his family of 7 (1 more on the way) he's self employed and had no problem paying his insurance premium until January 1st when they took away his plan and increased the premium by $467.00 per month and this was a high deductible H S A plan, his old premium was $335.00 per month an it was going up to almost $800.00 per month. We are in California, I helped him go onto the Covered CA website and apply to see if they could get any help with that... it automatically put all the children (5 now and 1 on the way) Medi-cal and he has NO choice but to do that now because he can't afford the new plan that he was mapped out to go to with his current carrier... this is just one example of the mess we are faced with as insurance brokers .. I've been in the insurance industry for over 30 years and seriously cannot believe that the president doesn't see what this is going to do to our already suffering economy that was just now finally looking a little brighter... All of our clients that early renewed their plans to get them to 12-1-14 have a rude awakening once they see what's going to happen this year when their plan renews... I wouldn't doubt if all of my accounts just cancelled and told everyone to find their own insurance... and quite honestly I wouldn't blame them. What a total mess of things he's made this insurance issue ... Everything comes with a price ... great no more pre-x ... do you think that's going to be free ? NO and the healthy people are still not applying .... sorry ranting .....

  • David Miller on 1/29/2014 12:45:44 PM

    I am a career agent working for an independant insurance agency. For around the last 25 years I have paid for my own health insurance. My Wife and I are in our 60's. My plan was more expensive than many plans because I chose to insure my family and I would be well cared for in a medical emergency and not have large deductables, co-payments and co-insurance payments.
    Around 10 years ago I developed a health condition that requires more than just the routine exams and flu shots that younger people require. I have had to pay a $250 deductable and mimimal copayments for exams and prescriptions until now.
    Enter The Affordable Health Care Act. I no longer could keep the health plan I paid on for 25 years. ("And if you like your plan you can keep your plan." said President Obama.) Since I have a preexisting condition I had to go to the "Market Place" to find new coverage. Here is how this so called "Affordable Health Care Act" affected my wife and I. Our deductable went from $250 per person to $1500 per person. Our co-payments either doubled or in some cases trippled. Our co-insurance did the same increase to out-of-pocket expenses. That means that what I require for my condition isn't any longer paid for by my health care. It now has become out of pocket expenses. And here is the toughest part to swallow. Our monthly cost of health care increased so much that it now costs an additional 17% of my gross annual income to pay for. That's right. An ADDITIONAL 17% of my GROSS ANNUAL INCOME.
    If you are also in my age bracket you will be able to remember how mad Donald Duck could get and how he reacted to things that made him mad. Put my picture over his face.

  • Rudy Laris Sr. on 1/29/2014 12:47:54 PM

    When a president or leader take Christianity & God out of our Country he forgets the basics & morals this Country was founded on !!!! His health care program is devastating & very costly & will bankrupt this Country !!!!

  • TIM on 1/29/2014 12:50:41 PM

    Im not sure what to think of all these opinions.

    I here from individuals that their employers pay for their insurance and they say Obamacare would they know?

    We all complained when we see an uninsured go to the emergency room for a cold......Who paid for that... The people that could afford insurance in the first place.

    Individuals complain that their premiums been going up because of Obamacare..... REALLY mine has been going up at least 10% a year for the last 10 years....preObamacare....

    My final OPINION..... Let not forget about the MILLIONS of dollar salaries and MILLIONS of dollars of BONUS' that the Health Insurance CEO have been receiving. I bet they don't feel guilty.

  • Robert Trinka, CIC on 1/29/2014 1:04:46 PM

    The fact checking by Fox News and the Washington Post (3 Pinocchios) show that Obama's claim of 9 million people enrolled as a direct result of the ACA is "inaccurate" by at least 5 million people, mostly those who would have enrolled in Medicaid regardless of whether the ACA was passed. He continues to misrepresent the ACA law and its results, and that no longer can be attributed to his lack of knowledge, but more his lack of truthfulness. Simply stated, believe him at your own risk! I wonder if Ms. Shelley has actually paid her premium yet and if not, what will happen? It is a stretch to believe that the claims from her illness have already been paid by the insurer, mere days after her treatment. Some follow-up investigation on her case and others "enrolled" as of 1/1/2014 would be interesting.

  • Michael P Federici on 1/29/2014 1:13:52 PM

    While there have been many negative issues related to the cost and implementation of HealthCare Reform, I have personally enrolled a number of individuals who received subsidies for their premims and cost sharing - which lowered deductible and coinsurance amounts.

    I am generally concerned about the lack of younger adults who have not opted to purchase a health policy - not so much about their penalty ($95 or 1% of income) but the fact they will not have adequate coverage to pay for health care costs. And that their premiums will not be part of the pool to pay for other person's claims.

    That is what the law of large numbers for health insurance is about. The premiums of the healthy paying for the cost of those who need medical care.

    I am also disappointed that the President only touted the perceived accomplishments and that the Congress does not work together to support the law to make it work for all.

    As a final comment MLR (medical loss ratio) that is applied to insurance companies should also be applied to Hospitals, Facilities, Pharmacutical Companies and Doctors.

    Please answer this question: What percentage of profit is it ethical to make on people who are sick and dying?

  • Chuck C on 1/29/2014 1:45:27 PM

    Couldn't watch & listen to any more lies

  • Robert Trinka, CIC on 1/29/2014 2:27:35 PM

    Michael Federici, in answer to your question, the healthcare financing and delivery systems are largely comprised of not-for-profit companies and organizations, more so than any other industry (except charity). The majority of hospitals are not-for-profit. How about Mao Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Scott-White and other top medical provider organizations? Not-for-profits. Most of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield franchises are not-for-profit as are insurance mutual companies. Kaiser is another example. Some 100,000,000 employees are self-insured by their employers, who do not profit from providing healthcare benefits. Government finances over 100,000,000 people's healthcare, and Federal and State governments are not-for-profit (understatement). So, bottom-line, the healthcare financing and delivery systems suffer more from a lack of a profit motive and the market discipline, price controls, regulation and competition that come with for-profit enterprises. Most for-profit health insurers would be happy with an after tax profit of 2-4%, much the same as the grocery business. How much should food providers profit from feeding me? While profit motives influence decisions, both positively and negatively, the last problem with the healthcare industry is excessive profits. Eliminating profits is equivalent to a rounding error. The real problem stems from the lack of financial controls and market forces. Do you believe that a not-for-profit auto manufacturer would make better cars at a lower price? Not-for-profit retailers would make more goods and services available at a reduced customer cost? A not-for-profit Google would make more and less expensive applications and information available to its users? A not-for-profit Apple or Microsoft would produce better and cheaper products? Well, you get the idea. It's really about care and cost management by the people and institutions who provide the care!! Logically, the last alternative would be government.

  • Jerry Kroll on 1/29/2014 2:38:52 PM

    Chuck C said it better, in fewer words than anyone else

  • Will Prioleau,CLU,CHFC,RHU,MIBS on 1/29/2014 3:30:39 PM

    Mr. Trinka's entire premise is flawed. He apparently thinks that healthcare financing and delivery are (and are not) subject to the same market forces. The real fact (as opposed to" Fox News facts ") remains that the two most efficient systems with the highest level of customer satisfaction are both government run...Medicare and Tricare.

  • vince phillips on 1/30/2014 4:40:01 AM

    In my local paper this morning there was an article about my county government wondering where they were going to get $500,000 in new costs for employee benefits because of the Affordable Care Act. They were not making a political statement. Advocates for this law may not realize that there are always trade-offs. If you get rid of medical underwriting so that a pre-existing illness is not a barrier to getting insurance, that's a good thing BUT someone else will pay for that federal generosity. Insurers have to charge more to break even. Employers whether it be local government or an employer with over 50 full-time employees will struggle with the increased overhead and they will do what they have to in order to stay afloat, even if it means stopping spouse coverage, cutting people to part-time or simply forcing employees to pay more insofar as they are allowed to do so. While I certainly don't fault President Obama for presenting some self-serving examples to the Nation, his glowing examples should be tempered with the real life struggle going on every day for the millions who had their policies cancelled because of ACA coverage requirements or folks being forced to pay more because of the federal government's belief that you can give benefits for free. Someone always pays.

  • James Kenyon on 1/30/2014 8:29:55 AM

    Seriously, the most efficient programs? Apparently our definitions are at odds. Efficient would include financial solvency in my definition. Beneficaries of Medicare and Tricare have high satisfaction and I hope to be one in a few years - then the rest of America can begin to support me!

  • Will Prioleau,CLU,CHFC,RHU,MIBS on 1/30/2014 8:49:31 AM

    Yes, Mr Kenyon, efficient. Medicare advantage was Mr. Bush's experiment with privatized medicare. They ran costs up 15-19% and still fight losing their subsidies (and make huge election contributions) with taxpayer provided subsidy money. Could medicare be more efficient ? Sure, but it would require rational bipartisan effort...not FOX "news" death panel scare tactics.

  • Robert Trinka on 1/30/2014 9:05:14 AM

    Well, guys, Medicare (Tricare?) is not required to maintain reserves or surplus to back up its commitments as private insurers are. The Medicare trust funds are nearly depleted even if you count the Treasury IOUs, and more and more, Medicare (along with other government programs) use current revenues to sustain themselves (Medicare uses more than 45%). That's Ponzi logic. Medicare has unfunded liabilities of more than 30 trillion dollars. So, where is that extra money going to come from?

    Medicare coverage is not free and does not meet the ObamaCare minimum benefit requirements, so count on spending some money out of pocket when you become eligible.

    Medicare and Medicaid will eventually implode along with ObamaCare subsidies. It's only a matter of time, and we won't know what factors will trigger the implosion until it occurs.

    There is not enough money on the planet to cover the future costs. Your best hedge is to hope medical science comes up with much less expensive and much more effective prevention and treatment for diseases. But without a profit motive, who wants to invest the time and money?

  • Scott West on 1/30/2014 9:39:17 AM

    Robert, thank you for interjecting the fiscal reality check. However, those who don't care/consider whether a program is sustainable over the long run, will always believe free (or heavily subsidized) health care is a right of every American. Regardless of cost, regardless of lifestyle, etc. as we all have a duty to take care of the less fortunate.

    It's always intriguing to me to see the most ardent supporters of government largesse (and more programs) are usually the folks who do little or nothing to pay directly for the causes they support. It's always OPM. Would be nice to see these ardent supporters get out in front and lead by example. How about Warren Buffett paying extra to the IRS? Obama giving 50% of his and Michelle's income to the Red Cross? Al Gore foregoing his millions in income, donating it to reforestation efforts, greenhouse gas research, etc.

    Hypocrits with a following.

  • James Dawson REBC, RHU on 1/31/2014 9:59:43 AM

    As a broker of more than 20 years, I have had my share of meeting with my small business owners. Year after year the same desperate looks when I would be forced to deliver a double digit increase. In many instances I was able to minimize the cost increases . As anyone in the business knows, that typically meant benefit concessions. The last few years I would occasionally comment that we might look back and see these as the "Good Old Days" in the small group market. The other day I delivered a +98% increase to one of my small business clients.
    What an absolute shame the mantra was Accessibility and not Affordability as the bill suggests.

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