The long drive down the New York State Thruway to Albany is always one of reflection. Can I possibly make a difference? Back in September, in my role as legislative chair for the New York State Association of Health Underwriters, I attended two meetings: one with the New York State Healthcare Exchange staff, and a second with Governor Cuomo’s office to discuss health care in this state.

Regulators and legislators, who are all well-meaning, need to hear from stakeholders to gain better understanding of how their actions impact real people before they get out of the laboratory in Albany. And while during the meetings, myself and fellow brokers come together with the opportunity to voice our issues, the fact is that legislative wheels grind very slowly. It takes time to see results from our efforts and right now, we’re left hanging on until the next spring legislative session.

My issues

Individuals and small groups really can’t get quality coverage any longer. Premium adequacy in New York has become a significant issue. Networks are getting very narrow, out-of-network benefits are all but unavailable, and the established national insurance carriers are limiting their participation in these markets and even considering getting out. My concern is that inadequate health care will cause these individuals and small businesses to relocate to another state. It may get that bad.

In the spirit of “If you like your plan, you can keep it,” contrary to the rules in many other states, New York is about to prohibit stop-loss insurance for groups under 100 employees (previously it was 50).

Another thing I learned: Albany is very close to Canada and there is a strong constituency who want to join Vermont as a single-payer state. All New Yorkers should be very cautious about this. The grass, as we know, isn’t always greener. Do we want to trade government oversight for insurance carrier and employer oversight (how did that go with the VA?).

For now, I plan to keep making the drive. Come spring, I’ll be back there for another day on the hill, right in the middle of the legislative session. As long as they listen, I have a shot to express my opinions and hopefully improve health care for all.

Craig Hasday is chief operating officer of Frenkel Benefits, LLC, one of the largest privately held independent employee benefits brokers in the United States. Reach him at chasday@frenkel.com or (212) 488-0200, and read more from Hasday at frenkelyspeaking.com.

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