Health insurance companies swamped with questions | NevadaAppeal.com

Health insurance companies swamped with questions

John Seelmeyer
Northern Nevada Business Weekly

Health insurance providers and sales agencies in northern Nevada scramble these days as they field a large number of calls from clients with questions about the new federal healthcare plan.

It’s a two-fold challenge: Answering all the questions, and getting enough information to answer the clients’ questions intelligently. “There are a lot of questions, but I don’t have all the answers,” says Pete Gilbert, owner of Employer Benefits Inc. in Reno.

He notes the health legislation runs some 2,600 pages, with most provisions timed to go into effect at different points through the next three years. Some provisions don’t take effect for seven years. Like other health insurance agencies, the staff of Employer Benefits Inc. is meeting with one health carrier after another to begin sorting out some answers.

Many of the early questions from clients deal with a provision of the new law that requires insurers to provide coverage to dependent children up to the age of 26, says Lloyd Barnes with Wells Fargo Insurance Services in Reno.

That’s going to require more recordkeeping for employers who probably will find that their plans are covering more dependents – but the regulations that will spell out the details of the provision aren’t yet available.

But questions, Barnes says, range all over the waterfront as clients try to figure how the health insurance law will affect their companies and their personal situations.

“We’re getting a lot of inquiries about what it all means,” he says. One question that’s drawing some immediate curiosity is the availability of tax credits for the purchase of health insurance by some small businesses.

Acknowledging that they’re not experts in income tax law, firms such as Clark and Associates of Reno last week were sending business customers to an IRS Web site to see if they’re eligible for the tax credits. (The site is http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=220809,00.html?portlet=6.) “There’s a lot of curiosity about what’s what,” says Ed Hendricks of Hendricks & Associates, a benefits firm in Reno.

Given the complexity of the new federal health law, he says the company’s staff focuses on small bits of it at a time.

“We’re taking a look at what is front and center right now,” Hendricks says. “It’s just too big.”

The National Association of Health Underwriters, a health insurance trade group, tried to boil down major provision of the health-care plan into an easy-to-use timeline and summary for its members. Even at that, the document runs across 16 closely-spaced pages.

But even while they’re educating themselves, Hendricks says staff members at this company are keeping an eye on the autumn elections and the possibility that parts of the new bill could be repealed by a newly elected Congress next year.

That, he says, keeps them from digging too deeply into complex provisions that are scheduled to take effect for a couple of years.