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A National Benchmark

On February 16, The Council filed a letter to HHS Secretary Tom Price urging him to establish a national benchmark health plan in lieu of current costly state-enhanced “benchmark” plans. Click here to download the letter.

Employer Letter on the Tax Treatment of Health Benefits

Early last week, The Council was one of 27 organizations that signed onto a letter sent to the White House National Economic Council and Domestic Policy Council regarding the tax treatment of health benefits.

Taxing health benefits by capping the individual tax exclusion constitutes a tax increase that will drive up out-of-pocket costs for employees and their families, risking disruption to the stable, employer-based system, and threatening the benefits working families enjoy and want to keep.

This policy would discourage lower-wage workers from enrolling in employer-provided insurance, potentially leaving them vulnerable and uninsured or in unstable individual market plans.

Read the letter and distribute to your clients as you see fit.

Our Day on The Hill

The Council welcomed to Washington, D.C., 270 member executives and operational leads of our member firms for our organization’s annual Legislative & Working Groups Summit, February 6-9.

In addition to two days of individual working group meetings, our program featured:

  •        Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Senate Republican Leadership
  •        Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair
  •        Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., House Financial Services Committee
  •        Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., House Majority Whip
  •        Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Senate Banking Committee
  •        Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Fmr. Presidential Candidate
  •        Charlie Cook, National Journal, Political Analyst

Council members had more than 100 meetings on Capitol Hill, including House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle. Tops on our agenda was preservation of the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored insurance.

Our message to Members of Congress was, and will continue to be: don’t destabilize the employer-sponsored system that covers more than half of all Americans. It would be a cruel hoax on the American public if replacement of the Affordable Care Act is a measure that now taxes the health benefits they receive through their employer. This one-pager lays it all out.

We feel that moved the dial in a major way but the biggest takeaway was that many Members of Congress are still learning of the impact the tax would have on the market. “Repeal & Replace” (or just “Repair”) is proving to take a lot longer than most in Congress thought it might take. With even President Trump saying that the process might go into 2018, we have a long fight ahead and we’ll need to exhibit a persistent vigilance in order to defend our priorities.

To keep with the latest on Capitol Hill, sign up for our members-only Healthcare in Transition newsletter by emailing Tish Carden at

CMS Market Stability Rule

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued the first proposed rule in the wake of the President’s Executive Order directing the agencies to modify Affordable Care Act regulations to the extent that they are permitted under the law to make the current system as efficient and as affordable as possible. The proposed rule includes six sets of proposed modifications to the individual and small group market rules.

Perhaps most significantly, the proposal would shorten the individual open enrollment period to be from November 1 to December 15 (instead of January 30) beginning with the 2018 plan year and would allow insurers to require payment of missed premiums for prior plan years before enrolling an individual in new coverage. On the latter, CMS cited data showing that – in 2015 – 21 percent of the individuals enrolled stopped paying their premiums at some point during that year and almost half of those individuals reenrolled in the exact same plans in 2016.

The proposal also would tighten the special enrollment period eligibility and eligibility verification requirements; expand the range of permitted Actuarial Value de minimus variation; and delegate network adequacy determinations to the States.

In addition, the IRS has altered its rules and will no longer reject tax returns that do not answer the question regarding whether the filer had the mandated health insurance, perhaps signaling an intent to not enforce the individual mandate going forward.

Emotional Intelligence: It’s More Important Than you Think!

We all know that anything out of balance can become troublesome. Well, as it turns out, this applies to Emotional Intelligence (EQ) as well!

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Emotional Intelligence Has 12 Elements. Which Do You Need To Work On?, Daniel Goldman and Richard Boyatzis identify the 12 critical elements to Emotional Intelligence that go well beyond the “soft skills” of sociability, sensitivity and likeability that most people associate with EQ.

While being kind and positive is certainly desirable, there are other critical elements of EQ that could make you a stronger and more effective leader. The ability to deliver difficult feedback, the courage to drive change and the creativity to think outside the box are just three of the competencies that are part of a well-balanced array of EQ capabilities that prepare leaders to take on tough challenges.

Read more here.

Alycia Kiley, SVP, Member Services: Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work, David Rock

Michael Kanick, Digital Marketing Strategist: ‘I’m a Dead Man Walking’, Politico

Elizabeth McDaid, Senior Vice President, Leadership & Management Resources: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Mar. 9-23                 Virtual Workshop: Emotional Intelligence (online)

Mar. 14-16               Benefits Broker Smackdown (Denver, CO)

Mar. 28-30               Broker Smackdown West (Napa Valley, CA)