With the 2016 election behind us, how the incoming administration and new Congress will govern will be closely watched, especially when it comes to health care reform.
Lawmakers have been either defending or fighting against the Affordable Care Act since it was enacted in 2010. With Republicans controlling both Houses of Congress and the administration, health care reform is imminent, but details of replacement plans are unclear, remaining of significant interest to consumers, the self-employed, small and large employers, insurers, and those advocating on behalf of these groups, including the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).
For example, while repeal of the individual and employer mandate is favored by many, without a strong inducement to influence the purchase of insurance, only those with health problems may obtain coverage. This increases costs for all participants, as the high demand for care and payment of claims outweighs offsetting revenue provided by healthy enrollees filing fewer and less expensive claims. How will consumers handle such costs? Additionally, if revenue-generating taxes are repealed, how will individuals’ (and insurers’) financial incentives to participate be covered? Another concern is how long transition to a new system will be and whether insurers will continue to offer coverage in the interim.
While lawmakers have wrestled with these uncertainties, NAR has adopted essential health care advocacy principles that center on providing affordable, quality coverage to self-employed and small employers purchasing in the individual and small group insurance markets. The following health care policies have guided NAR’s advocacy efforts in the health care debate through the years:
- The nation and its health care system are best served by having all citizens covered by health insurance.
- Health care coverage and/or insurance should be made available to all.
- Individuals should have health care coverage that is continuous.
- Individuals should be able to choose their preferred health insurance plan from an array of options that offer a variety of covered services and policy costs.
- Health care coverage should enhance health and well-being by providing preventive health and chronic disease management services.
- The health care delivery system must provide cost-effective, quality care in an efficient and timely manner in order to be affordable and sustainable for society. Cost containment must be a component of any reform effort.
- A “single payer” health care system where the government pays for and allocates health care services should not be implemented.
- Employers should not be required to offer employee health insurance programs.
Access and affordability are top priorities for REALTORS® who are primarily independent contractors paying out of pocket for coverage or are on a spouse, partner, or family plan. NAR is therefore cautious of any proposal that would make it more expensive to obtain health insurance and supports reforms that increase the availability of a variety of reasonable insurance options.
With many real estate professionals falling in the baby boomer generation, maintaining protections for pre-existing conditions, ensuring coverage for preventive health and chronic disease services and prioritizing fiscal accountability are essential in any health care reform initiative in order to reduce overall health care expenditures and improve welfare.
Realty firms, like other small businesses, also face financial difficulties when it comes to regulatory compliance and searching for affordable coverage for employees. Reducing unnecessary regulations, promoting affordable credit opportunities and allowing states to merge individual and small group markets will result in reduced overhead costs, greater competition and increased flexibility for self-employed and employer-provided benefits.
As the health care reform debate continues, NAR will strongly advocate for the aforementioned principles that promote universal access to high-quality, affordable insurance options and remove burdensome regulations that drive up costs. As a leading representative of independent contractors and small- and large-firm interests, NAR will fight for common-sense reforms that address ongoing issues impacting members’ health care needs.
Christie DeSanctis is a policy representative for Business Issues at the National Association of REALTORS®.
This column is brought to you by the NAR Real Estate Services group.
For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.
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