This year, from November 3 through 6, the 5th Annual Employer Healthcare and Benefits Congress will take place in Las Vegas. The conference will bring together around 2,000 attendees from the health insurance industry to participate in workshops, keynotes, educational sessions, and forums. For those of us who are wondering what they lay of the land will be, now that PPACA has been officially enacted, the conference aims to answer some of our questions and concerns, straight from the industry’s foremost experts on the matter. We had the opportunity to speak with Jonathan Edelheidt, the CEO of the Employer Healthcare & Benefits Congress, the largest US insurance and HR convention.
Insurance Forums: It’s open enrollment season right now for the health care exchanges, and agents and brokers are intensely busy. Why should they take time out of this period and out of their schedules to attend this conference?
Jonathan Edelheit (Edelheit): One of the big reasons is because health care reform is clearly a game-changer. It affects everyone, from big associations on down to individual producers. If you’re an agent or broker, not understanding the changes might mean reduced commissions and revenues, and a potentially huge loss of clients. It could even mean fines for you, if you advise a client incorrectly. The health care reform law is up to 11 million words now, replete with all of the rules and regulations surrounding the law. It’s difficult to stay in compliance given all that information. Most brokers and agents are so busy during their normal work week that they dont have time grasp all of the details and nuances of the law.
Further, some of the rules and regulations coming out have been announced very quietly. HHS might announce something as an FAQ, that has a huge impact or could potentially prohibit certain agents/broker common practices, or eliminate certain types of insurance. if agents aren’t up to speed, they will lose clients to agents and brokers who are.
We are the only conference in the industry that focuses solely on health care reform. We’re bringing in national leaders that normally wouldn’t be seen at another event. To be able to be taught by them is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Agents will say it’s a tough time to attend the conference. But health care reform comes around only once, and agents can justify attendance by telling clients and employers that they’re coming to learn directly “from the horse’s mouth.” They’re going to get all of the latest updates, so they can advise clients accurately to be in compliance for January 1. Most of the time, employers and clients see this as an overall net positive.
Insurance Forums: The “Big 3” will be speaking at the conference. By “Big 3”, we’re talking about Phyllis Borzai, Assistant Secretary of the Employee Benefits Administration at the Department of Labor; Alan Tawshunsky, Deputy Associate Chief Counsel of Employee Benefits at the Internal Revenue Service, and Christen Linke Young, Director of Coverage Policy and Health Reform at the Department of Health and Human Services. Why is this important, and what can agents and brokers get out of it?
Edelheit: Since currently no one knows exactly what will happen with the exchanges, it’s beneficial for us to have an executive from HHS who has directly impacted these exchanges and implemented the changes involved. From the IRS, our speaker is in charge of all enforcing of mandates fines and compliance. From the Department of Labor, our speaker is making up most of the rules and regulations for health care reform. If you want to be a leader / expert and take on new clients, to have that opportunity to learn from these is a serious edge. In addition, we have 20 other national leaders. You won’t see generally see people from the administration out speaking on this subject, but we re including three of the most influential people in the industry.
Agents currently have a lot of questions. The exchanges have been delayed, employers don’t know if they should put employees into exchanges or offer coverage, and agents are wondering whether they should get registered with the exchanges. Our HHS speaker, Christen Linke Young, will give agents inside intelligence on what’s really happening, and how they can get involved and use exchanges as a new profit center. They will be able to ask questions about the exchanges to the people who are actually in charge of them.
Regarding the IRS, there is all this uncertainty about the mandates, compliance, and fines, and everyone will get the latest information on what is really happening with those 3 things from the deputy commissioner himself. They will come away understanding how to advise their clients what they need to watch out for from Alan Tawshunsky.
Phillis Borzai, from the Department of Labor, is currently coming out with rules and regulations on adopting health care reform. She is a major spokesperson for PPACA and for the Employee Benefits Administration. She can help educate attendees on what they should look out for going forward, with respect to their business and their clients.
Insurance Forums: If there is anything we overlooked that you’d like to share, or one aspect of the conference I haven’t mentioned that people should know, what is it?
Edelheit: The event is organized by the Health Care Reform Center and Policy Institute. As a result, agents who come to the conference can also become a certified health care reform specialist, and get a designation at the conference.