Landrieu Leads Effort to Make Affordable Care Act Work Better for La. Families and Businesses
Initiative would expand access, increase affordability and improve flexibility for workers and businesses
WASHINGTON — United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today proposed a series of commonsense pieces of legislation that take the next steps toward making the Affordable Care Act (ACA) work better for families and businesses in Louisiana and across the country. The bills would make changes to the law in three key areas to:
- Offer more convenient and greater access to coverage;
- Provide greater choice and increasing affordability;
- Improve flexibility for workers and businesses.
Sen. Landrieu was joined in this effort by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Mark Warner, D-Va., Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Angus King, I-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.V. The senators authored an op-ed in Politico laying out their latest ideas. Read the op-ed.
“I hear stories every day from individuals, families, and small businesses in Louisiana about how the Affordable Care Act is actually working to provide for first time quality and affordable choices in the health insurance marketplace,” Sen. Landrieu said. “They often tell me that they are extremely happy that this is coverage they can finally count on. However, from some constituents I have picked up a few recommendations about how this law can work better. As I have said from the beginning, the Affordable Care Act is not perfect. No law is. That is why I am happy to join with several of my colleagues to put forth some ideas to make it work even better. I hope some, if not all of these, suggestions will gain support from Republicans and Democrats to become law.
“We cannot go back to the days when a child with a pre-existing condition can be denied coverage or our mothers, daughters and sisters were charged more for premiums simply for being a woman.”
Today’s ideas are just the latest in a series of work Sen. Landrieu is doing to make the Affordable Care Act work better.
- In 2011, Sen. Landrieu led the effort to repeal the ACA’s expanded 1099 reporting requirement to ease the burden on small businesses.
- Earlier this month, the administration announced it will extend the time for two years until Oct. 1, 2016 for individuals to renew health insurance plans that do not meet the requirements in the Affordable Care Act. The fix is based on Sen. Landrieu’s Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise legislation that she introduced after reports that some insurance plans were being cancelled for not meeting the minimum standards established in the new health care law. Her legislation will allow individuals to permanently keep their current health plan at their choice as long as policyholders stay up-to-date with their payments. It will also provide policyholders information from their insurance company as to which parts of the policy do not meet minimum coverage standards made available in new plans, such as hospitalization, laboratory services and prenatal care. This will allow consumers to make informed decisions about their health plans.
- In January, the administration responded to a letter by Sen. Landrieu requesting that volunteer firefighters and emergency first responders not be counted as full time employees for local governments.
B. Ronnell Nolan, president of the Health Agents for America, said: "Senator Mary Landrieu today introduced two important bills that will benefit health care consumers in Louisiana and across the country. The Enhancing Access for Agents and Brokers Act would ensure that Americans purchasing health coverage through insurance exchanges would have access to licensed and trained insurance agents to help them navigate the new insurance Marketplaces. The Consumers Having Options in Choosing Enrollment Act (CHOICE Act) would ensure that more Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance options by providing a pathway to enroll directly with insurers and certified web-based brokers. As a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), millions of Americans are being forced to shop for health insurance, many for the first time. It is critical that consumers have access to adequately trained and licensed insurance agents to help them navigate through the various plan options available through the insurance Marketplaces, and also weigh important decisions such as out-of-pocket expenses and premium subsidies. Health Agents for America, its members, and the thousands of consumers we serve everyday applaud Senator Landrieu for introducing these bills and encourage the Senate to pass them without delay."
More convenient and greater access to coverage
Consumers Having Options in Choosing Enrollment (CHOICE) Act (Sens. Landrieu, Heitkamp, Warner, Begich, Manchin)
Provides a permanent path for consumers to seamlessly enroll directly through insurers or certified web-based entities, in addition to enrolling through healthcare.gov, making it easier for individuals and families to access quality health insurance.
Supporters: America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Health Agents for America
Enhancing Access for Agents and Brokers Act (Sens. Landrieu, Heitkamp, Warner, Begich, Manchin)
Improves access for agents and brokers to help families and small businesses enroll in health plans on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Agents and brokers are trusted advisors for many families and businesses and should be able to help with these kinds of decisions.
Supporters: National Association of Health Underwriters, Health Agents for America, National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Health Agents for America
Providing Greater Choice and Increasing Affordability
Expanded Consumer Choice Act (S. 1729) (Sens. Begich, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Warner, Manchin, King)
Provides a new lower cost, high-deductible option called the Copper Plan, in addition to the existing Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze options in the marketplace that would give consumers more control over their own coverage, spur competition, and, most importantly, increase affordability. The new Copper Plan would meet the essential benefits laid out by the Affordable Care Act.
Supporters: Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Communicating for America, Evolution1, Healthcare Leadership Council, National Association for the Self-Employed, National Association of Manufacturers, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, National Retail Federation, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, The National Grange
Increased Competition for Consumers Act (S. 1333) (Sens. Begich, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Warner, Manchin)
Restores startup funds for new consumer-driven health insurance cooperatives, now operating in 23 states. This will allow families to have more options to access health coverage beyond traditional insurance companies, infusing state marketplaces with more competition to reduce average premiums. These nonprofit health care co-ops are already offering good options for thousands of consumers in states like Louisiana and Maine.
Supporters: National Alliance of State Health Care Cooperatives
Commonsense Competition and Access to Health Insurance Act (Sens. Warner, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Begich, Manchin)
Increases consumer choice by directing state insurance regulators to develop models for states to sell health insurance across state lines. These multi-state models will help us discern the benefits and challenges of selling health insurance in this manner, and determine if it is a means to increasing choice and competition among plans – potentially driving down costs while maintaining quality and value.
Improving Flexibility for Workers and Businesses
Small Business Tax Credits Accessibility Act (S. 2069) (Sens. Begich, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Warner, Manchin, King)
Improves flexibility, increases affordability, and eases the transition for our small businesses by making Small Business Health Care Tax Credits available for a longer period of time and accessible to more employers. Small businesses would be able to spend less time and money worrying about how they will provide coverage for their employees. Expanding the current tax credits to include businesses with fewer than 50 employees – instead of the current cap at 25 employees – would provide a real benefit to hundreds of thousands of small businesses and allow them to offer quality care while recruiting and retaining talented employees.
Supporters: National Association of Health Underwriters
Small Business Stability Act (Sens. Heitkamp, Landrieu, Warner, Begich, Manchin, King)
Expands the option for voluntary coverage to employers with fewer than 100 employees, about 98 percent of all businesses. This will provide certainty to small businesses as they make decisions for their businesses and flexibility for planning and growth.
Supporters: National Retail Federation, National Restaurant Association, and National Association of Home Builders
Commonsense Reporting Act (Sens. Warner, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Begich, Manchin)
Reduces the administrative burden for businesses by further streamlining and simplifying reporting requirements for health insurance coverage.
Treating Families Fairly Act (Sens. Manchin, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Warner, Begich)
Counts family members working for the same business and on the same employer health plan as one full-time equivalent employee for the purposes of ensuring larger businesses offer coverage to their full time workers.