Two benefits experts, one in health care and one in retirement, are sure that Healthcare.gov will eventually get fixed. But they say the real flaws will be exposed after the website for the Affordable Care Act’s public health insurance exchanges is up and running.
“The website is going to get fixed, it’s just a question of when,” says Craig Hasday, chief operating officer of Frenkel Benefits LLC in New York City. “And once it gets fixed, they’re going to need help.” Hasday says he thinks “it’s hit home that there’s such a dirth of information” for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and that the government and its agencies are already turning to insurance professionals for help in sorting it out and getting people enrolled. He cites discussions he had with legislators while in Washington for a National Association of Health Underwriters leadership meeting at the end of October, in addition to leaked notes that CMS wants to add more brokers to the federal exchanges and is opening up more training classes and reaching out to professional organizations.
“I don’t think anyone’s going to get up on a milk carton and scream, but I don’t think agents and brokers and insurance companies are quite the enemy anymore,” he says. “It’s because the realization hit. I think legislators and people at the Treasury and CMS want to make sure they don’t make a wrong turn.”
Dr. Greg Kasten, CEO and retirement planner at the Unified Trust Company in Lexington, Ky., thinks he can make a conjecture even farther out about the future of the ACA and benefits. “I think that when the website works, and it will, [the government] still won’t see the enrollment numbers,” he says. “What they didn’t take into account is all the behavioral work that’s been done within the 401(k). We’ve been writing about this stuff for 15 years and they’re going straight into the head wind.” Kasten explains that there are five behaviors — inertia, procrastination, choice overload, endorsement, framing — retirement planners take into account when developing tools like auto-enrollment and auto-escalation to ensure people get what they need out of their benefits.
“When the ACA fails, they’ll blame it on the website but it’s because they didn’t take human behavior into account,” Kasten says. His prediction of what will eventually happen for all benefits: “There’s a storm coming where [the government is] going to have to sit down and deal with all this, Social Security, Medicare, and the health care problem, and I think they have to throw all those things on the table and I think you’re going to see a policy change where this will become a more holistic system.” He says there is going to have to be a policy that combines health and welfare and that it makes sense since so much retirement saving is for health care.
CMS’s spokeswoman Julie Bataille has repeatedly assured the American public that the public health insurance exchanges will be fixed “by the end of November.” The CMS even shut down subsidy determinations for the Veterans Day holiday — Saturday through Tuesday morning — to keep working “around the clock” on determining website problems and executing fixes.
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