GOP makes little progress on ACA plans, brokers stay the course

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The GOP and Trump administration continue to develop a plan to replace or repeal the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, brokers are analyzing each new development and letting clients know the information important to them — if needed.

Congressional Republicans emerged this week from a retreat aimed at forging agreement on how to repeal and replace Obamacare with little new clarity on the details. No precise plan came out of the meeting because “we are still developing what this thing is going to look like,” Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho told reporters in Philadelphia Thursday.

Republicans were positive about the meeting, but made little tangible progress. The chairman of the tax-writing House Ways & Means Committee, Kevin Brady of Texas, said, "We’re just working really productively right now so no timetable’s been set."

All the plans to date are just “symbolic,” says Alan Schulman, relationship manager at brokerage The Meltzer Group in Bethesda, Md. He adds that the GOP and Trump are saying “repeal,” but to date, no one knows what the ACA replacement is going to look like.

Therefore, Schulman remains in wait-and-see mode. “They are saying the plan will be repeal,” he explains. “But as we learned with Trump and Mexico, they say something and in X amount of time, they come back with a creative pullback or takeback on what they said — that’s why I’m going to wait and see.”

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Any plan that emerges would be the eighth plan proposed, explains Ronnell Nolan, CEO of agent lobbying group Health Agents for America in Baton Rouge, La.

Like Schulman, she believes any plans that come out may be subject to change. “I don’t know what the Trump administration is going to do,” she says.

“We have seven plans, including one Democratic and several from key [Republican] leaders,” Nolan adds. “We don’t know what is going to happen.”

Common plan
Ed Oleksiak, senior vice president and shareholder at brokerage Holmes Murphy in Dallas, says that he does not rush to explain every proposed plan option to his clients. “Every time a group of Senators comes out with another plan, we don’t try to decipher it,” he explains. Instead, brokers and consultants need to “remain calm,” he adds, because “who knows what idea is going to stick.”

Oleksiak, a member of the National Association of Health Underwriter’s legislative council, is instead waiting for a common pattern to emerge from all the plans. “Until we see something that looks like it has some momentum and will move forward, that’s when we need to start being prepared,” he says. “When we see a strong pattern where everyone has some consensus around a particular item. Then we will talk about it.”

Schulman says he is in constant contact with his clients, including through social media, to make sure they have no concerns — and addressing any that do come up. “Clients know when I believe they need to know something. They know I will contact them,” he adds.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg News

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