The one thing brokers and employers can be certain of this year is more confusion about the Affordable Care Act, according to a panel of experts speaking at the National Association of Health Underwriters’ annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.

Employers are struggling with the constantly changing healthcare reform regulations and an inability to plan ahead, says R. Dane Rianhard, principal at Baltimore, Md.-based brokerage Tribridge Partners.

Advisers are needed now more than ever, panelists and attendees agreed.

“There is a lot of confusion because things keep changing,” Rianhard, who was on the panel, said in an interview after the panel.

Without brokers, employers have nowhere else to go, explains Jennifer Lovett, president and CEO of South Windsor, Conn.-based brokerage Crystal Financial Insurance. It’s imperative advisers stay current with regulations, experts agree. Lovett says she is constantly reading, going to conferences and learning about the changes.

“It is a moving target and I know with me, I spend more time researching, reading and checking things before [meeting with clients,]” she says. “Something that you used to be able to talk about off the top of your head, you have to look up now. It changes daily.”

Rianhard, vice president of NAHU Region II, says he has added a full-time compliance division with two employees to his firm. “It is a highly competitive market,” he explains. “If you don’t have a game face on every day, you might lose clients.’

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“When I meet with my clients, I tell them ‘Expect change and we’ve got you. We are going to hold your hand and if you have questions/concerns/issues, let us know.’”

“We have monthly webinars with the compliance team. We have a law firm on retainer that will send any sort of update. We have face-to-face visits,” he said. “When I meet with my clients, I tell them ‘Expect change and we’ve got you. We are going to hold your hand and if you have questions/concerns/issues, let us know.’”

An employer’s perspective

J. Kelly Conklin, founder and owner of Bloomfield, N.J.-based Foley-Waite Associates, an architectural woodworking company, says he uses his agent extensively in one-on-one meetings with employees to discuss what is happening with changing regulations.

As a small business owner, Conklin says there is no question in his mind that workplaces need to be safer and Americans need to be healthier. Therefore, although the ACA “needs a lot of work,” it is important to consider how to go about it, he explains.

“We have to strive for simplicity and recognize that the goal is to make us healthier and prevent us from going broke as we do it,” he said to a round of applause at Tuesday’s conference.

His “biggest fear,” he says, is that the next president will try to repeal the law.

“I’m sure a lot of people will say that is what we ought to do,” he said. “But people be careful with what you wish for. … We have made some progress. The ACA is an imperfect document, but let’s not sink it and start from scratch.”


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