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Art Jetter

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Art Jetter, CLU CFP® RHU REBC FLMI LTCP is president of Art Jetter & Company, a life and health insurance brokerage general agency supporting independent producers in the life, health, LTCI, critical illness, disability, annuity and employee benefits markets. He is a past president of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU), recognized by NAHU as Health Insurance Industry Person of the Year and recipient of the Harold R. Gordon Memorial Award. He is a past chairman of the National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies (NAILBA) and recipient of its 2014 Douglas Mooers Award for Excellence. He is a past board member of ACORD and the Life Foundation (Life Happens). Jetter is currently a board member of Wounded Warriors Family Support (www.wwfs.org), having served in the US Army as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Jetter can be reached at Art Jetter & Company, 11305 Chicago Circle, Omaha, NE 68154. Telephone: 800-228-0008. Email: Art@Jetter.com.

Wounded Warriors Family Support

“When America goes to war, our families go to war.” That’s the motto of Wounded Warriors Family Support, and that short sentence is the reason I support this fine organization and why I nominated Wounded Warriors Family Support for a NAILBA Foundation grant.

Wounded Warriors Family Support’s mission is to help “heal the wounds medicine cannot.” When a young soldier, husband, father is severely wounded, his family is “wounded” as well, and they need help, too, in many cases.

Unlike previous conflicts, 22 percent of the casualties returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which, in many instances, is moderate to severe. A young soldier with moderate TBI needs assistance with his daily living activities. Things we take for granted-driving, cooking, dressing-are challenging, if not impossible, for these veterans.

Whilst a traumatic brain injury is more likely to happen in soldiers who have faced combat, they can still happen to anyone who finds themselves in an accident through no fault of their own, like a car collision for example. This could also happen in cases of severe domestic abuse. That said, unfortunately, the consequences can be the same, and in the worst of circumstances, it could even result in death. So, if you know someone who has faced something similar, don’t be afraid to reach out to somewhere like this firm of lawyers to help with your claim. It won’t bring your loved one back, but it could help with the grieving process. For veterans, this can happen all too often.

The catastrophic effects of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) also severely maim our soldiers. Too many soldiers have lost all four limbs. More have lost three. IED blast effect also causes severe spinal injuries that make our once-athletic soldiers quadriplegics who require assistance in their daily activities.

If a young soldier is married, the responsibility becomes his wife’s. She must do all the driving. She must do all the cooking. She must help her husband bathe. She must help him get dressed. She must do it all and more if she is a mother with young children to look after.

A sad fact is that a few wives left their husbands because of “caregiver burnout.” The emotional and physical strain proved to be more than they could handle. They left because there was no one to back them up. They felt isolated and vulnerable without options.

She needs a break, or respite, from the daily emotional and physical strain of being caregiver, cook, chauffeur, maid and mother.

While the Department of Veterans Affairs has respite programs to help, they are limited to 240 hours each year and eight hours on any given day. That’s when Wounded Warriors Family Support comes in: It fills the gaps in coverage and provides the support a family needs, regardless of hours.

While the VA provides respite care for the caregiver, it won’t help care for children. Wounded Warriors Family Support will step in to find qualified caregivers to help look after young children when needed. A case in point was a caregiver wife and mother who needed an emergency hysterectomy. At home was her veteran husband, suffering the effects of TBI, and their young children, who all needed help during her medical emergency. One frantic phone call to one of our family case workers was all it took to get action. In only a few hours, a qualified Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) arrived to take care of the young soldier and their two children.

Respite care is not the only program under the mission of supporting families of combat wounded. This organization also provides handicapped-equipped Ford F-150s to veterans who have spinal injuries or whose legs have been amputated.

Wounded Warriors Family Support, in partnership with UAW-Ford, sponsors a welding program for combat wounded veterans four times a year. Every graduate from this program has a high-paying job waiting.

The support Wounded Warriors Family Support received from NAILBA and its generous members made our support of two wonderful families possible:

In one family, Minnie has to care for Anson, a quadriplegic as a result of a horrific IED blast when he was deployed to Iraq. Minnie has help from the VA and another local government program, but it’s not enough. Wounded Warriors Family Support provides this family with a CNA three nights a week, 52 weeks a year. Their staff has worked with Minnie and Anson for over four years, and they’ll be with the family as long as they’re needed.

In November 2017, an IED blast almost decapitated Kenton, a Navy ordnance disposal expert who was deployed to Syria. He was not expected to live. He cheated death, but he was left a quadriplegic and needed intense medical care to heal his wounds. Evacuated to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, his family in San Diego came to his side and lived at the local Fisher House. Lindsey wanted to be with Kenton as much as she could, but with four young children, she couldn’t do it all. She called Wounded Warriors Family Support.

The organization arranged to fly Lindsey’s mother to Walter Reed to look after the children-Logan, Mason, Annabelle and Sadie-while Lindsey stayed at her husband’s side. Wounded Warriors Family Support provided money so the family could get away from the hospital grounds and have a needed break. Later, Kenton was transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Lindsey and the children went, too, and took up residence in Fisher House there. Wounded Warriors Family Support helped this time by paying the airfare for Kenton’s mother to come in when Lindsey’s mother went home.

We don’t like to think in terms of dollars when it comes to supporting our combat wounded families, but that’s reality. Without the NAILBA grant that Wounded Warriors Family Support received, the support extended to the families of Anson and Kenton would not have been possible.

Wounded Warriors Family Support, while not a large or well-known charity (you won’t see any television advertising because they don’t spend their money that way) is highly effective and recognized as one of the best veterans’ charities by Consumer Reports and CNBC. With a four-star rating (the highest) from Charity Navigator, Wounded Warriors Family Support not only performs a great service for veterans, but also is a great steward with all funds donated.

I have been on the board of directors for several years and serve as treasurer of this great group. I am proud of the work this organization does, and I am proud that NAILBA and our members support the work that Wounded Warriors Family Support does to “heal the wounds that medicine cannot.”

To learn more, or to donate time or money to Wounded Warriors Family Support, visit www.wwfs.org.

Racing To The Bottom

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Back in good old 1991, the phrase “a race to the bottom” described the predicted events following one state’s proposals for a set of major medical insurance reforms. Those reforms included:

• Individual major medical would be purchased through a state operated exchange.

• Guaranteed policy issue.

• End to preexisting condition limitations. 

• Community rates to assure that no one, young or old, singles or families, would pay more or less than each plan’s standard premium.

• Minimum loss ratio with premium refunds to insureds would insure that no insurance company could make “excessive” profits.

• Five easy to understand standard plans, differing mostly by coinsurance percentage. 

• To get rate increase approval, carriers must prove that current rates will harm the plan.

• Carriers can charge only the approved premium rate.

• Risk adjuster mechanism – losses shared between companies.

The theory was that grouping individuals into the public exchange would achieve all these wonderful objectives while substantially lowering individual premium and accepting anyone with serious health conditions. 

Sound familiar?
All of these reforms seemed sensible and consumer oriented. I’m sure that best intentions were at play when each was suggested. Combined, these reforms unfortunately served to distort marketplace economics and eventually resulted in a dysfunctional health insurance environment.

Predicting a race to the bottom, critics of the proposed reform correctly predicted: 

• Premium increases will quickly become unaffordable.

• Deductibles will increase dramatically. 

• Younger people will suffer much higher rates. 

• Many will opt out of the new individual health insurance system. 

• Competition will cease as carrier after carrier leaves the individual marketplace.

• Plan design innovation will come to an end.

• The risk adjuster won’t work.

• Plans and premiums will be designed to fend off potential insureds – the race to the bottom.

This was twenty-five years ago. Did any of these predictions come true? Yes, all of them. I was among the group of predictors who met with the reformers. We hoped to help them find a successful way to meet their goal. After all, their goal of bringing affordable health insurance to everyone was also our goal.

That state’s plan can serve as our practical example. In 1992, there were about 200,000 individual comprehensive medical plan insureds in that state. By 2012, the number of individuals in comprehensive medical plans dropped dramatically to about 50,000.

The George Santayana quote comes to mind, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Why do we not learn from example? Yogi Berra had it right, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

The Exchange Concept
The idea of an exchange is a good one, but only if expectations are correct. An exchange provides choice and convenience, but it does not provide cost savings. Its added administrative requirement actually adds a layer of cost.

A public major medical insurance exchange is not in itself capable of automatic group risk management as is a private employer exchange. Unlike an employee group, a public exchange, open to all, has few tools to prevent adverse selection. 

A private employee group exchange is quite different. People join an employee group only when they become eligible employees and leave the group when they are no longer eligible employees. This enrolling and dis-enrolling process is not based on health, but on employment.

In a public exchange, however, healthy people can often remain uninsured, enroll when they feel the need, and quit the plan when they resolve their health issue – a horrific example of adverse selection at its very worst.

It is important we understand how health insurance prices are determined. Some might think prices are divined by magic or by “how much we can charge,” when the reality is that the health plan must collect enough money to pay claims and still remain competitive. The basis for individual premiums is the average cost of care for individuals participating in a plan. 

Of course, as the ratio of healthy people in the plan increases, the average cost reduces, lowering premiums. Conversely, the greater the percentage of people making significant claims, the higher the individual premium must be in order to have enough money to pay all of the claims. 

Penalty
The penalty for failure to purchase a plan is the antithesis of incentive. In a free society, people are free to make decisions that are in their own best interest. If the penalty for failure to purchase a plan is significantly lower than the price of obeying, many will opt to pay the penalty and stay uninsured. To compound the insult to the plan loss ratio, those who opt out are likely to be the healthiest, thereby producing an element of adverse selection. Obviously, an incentive to participate would have been far more effective.

Means Tested and Adjusted Premium Subsidy
Basing subsidy on income and family structure is a guess at actual need. It does not take into consideration individual financial commitments. Think of failed small business owners that still have ongoing loan payments, extended family commitments, etc. Subsidies are often incorrect and attempts to correct less than effective. 

The subsidy is available only through the public exchange, not individual purchase made off the exchange. This distorts the marketplace even more. Many require subsidy because of health issues. Our exchange-based subsidy pushes adverse risk into the exchange. 

Lower and modest income Americans are forced into the exchange by the power of the subsidy and probably forced to accept a specific plan within the public exchange. They might have preferred a plan offered outside the exchange but were unable to afford it without the subsidy.  At worst, this forcing of modest income Americans into the subsidized exchange works to create two American economies, widening an already damaging social divide.

Minimum Loss Ratio
In our example state exchange, the Minimum Loss Ratio, or as I like to call it, “The Premium Maximizer” assured carriers that they could either break even or lose. If they should lose, there would be no making up for the loss. The only self-defense for an insurer would be to charge the most, refund the overcharge, cross fingers, and hope to stay in business. 

Standardized Plans
Standardized medical plans mean the end of private sector plan design innovation. This needs no explanation. A free market depends, in part, on innovation to serve the interests of its customers. 

Competition
In the last ten years, we have often heard the words, “too big to fail.” While that phrase might be in our health insurance future as the number of health insurers shrinks, the catch phrase for our example should have been, “too small to sustain.” Assume you were the leader of a small to medium size health insurer that served the public nobly with solid plans, competitive rates, somewhat profitably for many years. You want to do the right thing. You participate in the adverse-selection-afflicted public exchange. How many millions of otherwise wisely spent health care dollars are you willing to lose before you give up on the dysfunctional marketplace? 

If the marketplace shrinks to one, two, or even three health insurance plans, we lose the most powerful tool to contain costs—a competition. As happened in our example state, everyone moves each year to the cheapest carrier. How do the other fully staffed carriers survive their administrative costs with no premium income? 

Death Spiral
As health plan claims increase, prices rise. The laws of price and demand certainly apply. As prices rise, some healthy people will decide to opt out. The average rate climbs and with it premiums rise. As the prices rise, more drop out and premium rate increases spiral out of control. 

Fixing it …. Can we?

Subsidy
The most impressive element of the Affordable Care Act was the subsidy for individual health plan purchase. This is also the most important element to correct. The subsidy should be a flat amount available to all, for any plan that meets a minimum standard, in an exchange or not. It should not be means tested. It is important to have healthy people in the mix, even if they have higher than average income, even if they are wealthy. Management of the subsidy is straightforward. The health plan receives the subsidy monthly on behalf of the participant in the form of an advanceable tax credit. This will work for employer self-insured and insured groups. It will also work for individual plan purchase. A flat subsidy will not require an army of IRS agents. 

Consumers will decide which plan they want to use their subsidy to purchase. It is likely that some will want a plan that costs the same amount as the subsidy. Carriers can design such a plan. Others will decide to purchase a plan that costs more than the subsidy. They can pay the additional premium themselves. 

Understand the Role of the Employer
Employers provide group benefits for their employees because they want to hire and retain good people. It is not due to a paternalistic desire to manage the personal lives of their employees.

Understand the Role of Profit
Profit is not a dirty word. In a free society and a competitive marketplace, profit is the logical motivator and reward for creating customer satisfaction. Consumer satisfaction with health insurance will result from competitive price, good service and fast claim payment. Therefore, potential for profit is vital to reform plan success. Profit allows carriers to build surplus, to take risks, to modernize, to offset losses, and to serve their clientele. 

Understand the Role of Self-Interest
In a free society, consumers act in their own self-interest. If health care reform respects and engages that, it has a chance for success. 

Understand the Importance of Innovation
Reform must not pick winners and losers. Rather, a successful reform plan will allow and promote flexibility, which will give rise to innovation. 

Competition
To promote competition, it will be important to create an environment where it becomes profitable for small and medium size health insurance companies to enter the market.

Who will fix it?
Bad ideas in the private sector fail. Bad ideas in the public sector too often get more funding.  In the private sector, someone’s wallet is at risk. Private sector reaction to market forces can be immediate. We need a private sector focused solution.