Available for Interview: Jerry Calistri Contact: Susan Guzo, sguzo@SwiftKennedy.com
David Guzo, davidguzo@GuzoPR.com
Senate Healthcare Bill: Can It Fix What Is Broken?
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell postponed a vote on the Senate health care bill until after the July 4th recess to allow more time to negotiate changes needed to win additional support. Since Democrats are uniformly opposed to the bill, which would repeal and replace much of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Republicans will need at least 50 votes from their members in order to pass it, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie.
In its present form, the Senate bill would end both the individual mandate (which requires people to buy insurance or pay a fine) and the employer mandate (which forces large companies to offer insurance to their employees or pay big tax penalties). It would also allow states to apply for waivers of the ACA’s coverage standards known as “minimum essential benefits,” but it would leave the ACA’s rules for coverage of preexisting conditions unchanged.
This bill has triggered sharp criticism from Democrats, with several labeling it as “heartless” and Chris Murphy (D-CT) calling it “an absolute monstrosity” and “evil.”
Jerry Calistri, President and CEO of Swift Kennedy & Associates, an insurance brokerage firm specializing in group employee benefits, strongly disagrees.
“People need to realize that Obamacare has decimated the individual health insurance market,” said Calistri, who is a Certified Healthcare Reform Specialist. “Because of insurance carriers pulling out of ACA exchanges, many Americans who need individual coverage will have no health insurance options and others will have only one choice. This, combined with skyrocketing premiums and deductibles, as well as narrow provider networks and the certain prospect of healthcare rationing down the road, has caused a crisis that needs to be addressed.”
If the GOP plan fails and Obamacare continues, millions of American workers would also find that their benefits are greatly reduced when the Department of Health and Human Services ends its transitional policy, which has allowed small businesses to renew their pre-ACA plans ever since 2014. When this transitional policy ends, many employees would be faced with much higher deductibles and narrower provider networks in their companies’ new ACA benefit plans.
Even more workers would find their companies’ generous benefit plans replaced by skimpier ones in 2020, when the ACA’s Cadillac Tax on high-cost employer health plans kicks in, because many employers would switch to cheaper plans in order to avoid this tax. (30 percent of employers would be affected by this tax by 2023, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.)
On top of all this, Obamacare has had a stifling effect on the U.S. economy, since the law is discouraging many businesses from hiring more fulltime workers. Business owners must also spend a great deal of time ensuring that they comply with the new regulations and sending the required reports to the IRS – time they could have spent growing their companies.
“Republicans are trying hard to pass legislation to solve these problems, and I applaud them for trying to pick up the pieces and fix what’s left of the health insurance market,” said Calistri. “The results would not be perfect, but they would be incalculably better than the single-payer socialized medicine that would inevitably result if Obamacare is allowed to run its course and collapse on its own. Ask any Canadian about their country’s extremely long waiting periods and rationing of health care, and you will get a glimpse of what our future would hold if these GOP efforts fail.”
Jerry Calistri is president and chief executive officer of Swift Kennedy & Associates, an insurance brokerage and consulting firm specializing in group employee benefit plans (including medical, dental, vision, life, disability, and alternative funding options) and Medicare options. Founded in 1921, the firm offers all health insurance carriers in Pennsylvania and has offices in Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre, State College, and DuBois. A Certified Healthcare Reform Specialist, he is an active member of the National Association of Health Underwriters and past president of its Mid-Penn chapter, as well as a PAC Board Member for Health Agents for America. He can be reached at email@example.com.