As the Supreme Court wraps up oral arguments on the core of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — the minimum coverage provision that will address the individual mandate — brokers express their concern surrounding health reform and how they are preparing clients for the future with or without it.

“I don’t know what I’m rooting for anymore,” says Tom Daly, managing partner at Benefit Advisory Group in Louisiana. “To me, it seems like such a mess that’s being created right now that I can’t imagine it existing without the ability for people like me to try to help people through it,” he adds, referring to the still-questionable role brokers will play in state exchanges.

Andrew Butler, president and CEO of Davenport, Iowa-based Butler Insurance Services, says that although his clients “remain keenly interested in providing high quality, responsive health benefits for their employees” they believe that PPACA only moves them further from the objective. 

Butler tries to communicate with clients about the future by sending “frequent emails and our own editorial opinions based on as many sources and perspectives as possible.”

The Court’s ruling, expected in late June before the Democratic and Republican party conventions, is likely to become a flashpoint in the November 6 presidential and congressional elections.

Kevin Trokey, president & CEO of St. Louis-based Benefits Growth Network, says for brokers, health reform is “one of those things that will absolutely impact their relationship with their client.” They need to focus on the Supreme Court hearings so they are in a “position to give good advice.”

The better brokers are in a position to help their clients, the more value they are going to add, says Trokey. “Unfortunately, I think all too often they are following it but only as it impacts them directly,” he adds. Their primary concern should be how it affects “the employer — and worry about themselves second.”

On Monday the justices took up a procedural tax law question about the timing of lawsuits and suggested by their questions that they could decide the merits of case. Listen to an analysis of Monday’s proceedings here.

The Obama administration argues that virtually everyone will need medical care and that those who opt not to buy insurance put a disproportionate burden on the system. It has defended the law as a response to a national crisis.

Also on Monday, the first day of the hearings, brokers used social networking sites to share the oral argument and transcript link from the Supreme Court website, as well as their opinions.

Dal Watson, a broker with Don Crawford & Associations in Midland, Texas, tweeted from @DalDubya: “I just finished listening to Day 1 of the oral arguments. Always fascinating to listen to a SCOTUS case!!!”

Raymond Lavine of Lavine Long Term Care Insurance tweeted from @LavineLTCINS: “Health care is a national issue. Whatever the decision, the challenges with our health will not go away. It is dysfunctional.”

A recent American Bar Association legal group survey of academics and lawyers found that 85% thought the law would be upheld.

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the administration's top lawyer at the Court, argued Tuesday that the individual mandate flowed naturally from Congress's authority to regulate commerce, including its longstanding authority in the insurance field.

In his brief to the justices, Verrilli said the law addresses an existing problem in the health care market brought on by the uninsured consuming health care they cannot afford.

Iowa broker Butler believes that the best possible outcome from the Supreme Court would be to overturn PPACA in its entirety. “While well intentioned, the law does little to actually impact the price of health care,” he says.  “Our various governments, local, state and federal, have already created a regulatory stranglehold on the delivery of health care, which is in large part responsible for a significant portion of the cost. The belief that the federal government can ‘fix it’ by adding hundreds of new regulations and penalties defies any rational explanation.”

Pam Brown a broker at CareWorks in Houston, says whatever the outcome, “It will change the way we do business holistically. It will change the way consumers buy health care products. This is the final word. Whatever the Supreme Court comes out [with], is the ruling.”

Follow EBA’s live coverage of the action outside the Supreme Court this week inBrief, as well as on Twitter @EBAmagazine and on Facebook at facebook.com/EBAmagazine as we post photos, video, podcasts and more.

For even more EBA coverage on the Supreme Court’s decision and its impact on brokers:

  • NAIFA’s Diane Boyle discusses what the state exchanges final rule means for brokers in a recent podcast.
  • Learn how each potential ruling concerning the constitutionality of the individual mandate could affect plan sponsors and advisers alike.
  • View a slideshow of exclusive photos taken by EBA and sister publication Employee Benefit News capturing the action outside the Supreme Court.

(Additional reporting by Brian M. Kalish, Joan Biskupic and James Vicini; Editing by Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman)

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