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COVID Conversations: Stressing the Importance of Health Insurance in Client Meetings

April 20, 2021   |   by Marc McGinnis
Discussing Health Insurance

How COVID-19 Has Impacted The Health Insurance Landscape

COVID-19 has challenged Americans – and citizens worldwide – as the pandemic has changed the way businesses operate, forcing some to shut down partially or entirely, while others have reduced their employee ranks or moved to a work-from-home environment for workers that allows them to maintain their health insurance coverage.

Some Facts About Group Insurance Coverage

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual survey says about half of U.S. residents get their health insurance through their jobs. For 2019, the most-recent year for which complete data is available, 49.6% nationally had employer-sponsored health insurance. About six percent had non-group (Individual & Family Plan) coverage, nearly 20% had Medicaid, and another 15.6% had Medicare and military coverage. Just over nine percent nationally were uninsured. In California, the uninsured number was lower (7.8%), with more than 25% enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program.

Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law more a decade ago, individuals who lost their jobs had limited options for health insurance coverage. Federal COBRA law (in force since 1985) requires employers with more than 20 employees to give workers who lose their health benefits the right to maintain those benefits if the coverage continues to be offered to current employees. Unfortunately, the burden of paying the full premium falls on those workers, who could pay up to 102% of the cost of the employer plan.

Cal-COBRA, a state program in California, applies to employers with 2 to 19 employees, giving workers a similar insurance coverage continuation option. Cal-COBRA also applies to employers with more than 20 employees who have exhausted federal COBRA rights. In all, eligible California employees may be able to extend their health insurance through the federal and state programs for a full 36 months under some circumstances.

COVID-19 Relief For Insurance Premiums

Under the most-recent COVID-19 relief assistance program, as authorized by Congress in March 2021, persons who have lost their jobs and health insurance in connection with COVID-19 may be able to receive a 100% federal subsidy to pay their COBRA premiums during the period of April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021. Additional information on these COBRA subsidies – and the challenges the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) presents to employers – can be found in this National Law Review article.

When you meet with employers to discuss employee benefits and health insurance, it’s important to include in that discussion the advantages to employees, as well as the employer benefits such as helping them recruit and retain top employee talent.

Health insurance offers peace of mind to employees. And, year after year, health insurance benefits rank among the most-valued employee benefits. A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found nearly 80% of workers base their acceptance or rejection of a job offer in part on benefits.

In its 2020 employee benefit trends study, underway after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., MetLife found workers are stressed out. Seven out of 10 workers noted their belief that their employer has a “social responsibility” to look after their welfare and well-being. That view was reiterated in the just-released 2021 survey, with 72% of employees saying safety and protection is more important than ever before.

Helping Clients Find Coverage

You can help business owners respond by working with them to find coverage that balances employees’ need for coverage and an employer’s desire to be responsible while still controlling costs. Word & Brown’s proprietary quoting software helps you easily evaluate plans with side-by-side comparisons, highlighted plan differences, and customizable output. It also includes integrated provider search technology – helping ensure your clients’ preferred doctors and hospitals are part of the networks for the plans being considered.

To learn more about how Word & Brown can help you find health coverage that employees like and employers can afford, call or email your Word & Brown representative or contact any of our six regional offices in California and Nevada. We offer a variety of COVID-19 resources to assist employers of all sizes.

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