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Top 6 Lessons from NAHU’s Virtual 2021 CapCon

Mar, 02 2021

Have you ever descended on D.C. with about a 1,000 other people? 

Don’t worry - I’m not talking about an attempt to take over the Capitol Building. Rather, joining fellow members of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) to educate representatives about how the healthcare system is winning and failing back in their home districts. 

Yep. It’s called lobbying. 

Over the last 22 years, I’ve joined this effort 15 times. This year, it was virtual for the first time. While we loss face-to-face interaction, we gained more first-timers. In the end, having more passionate people experience this unique aspect of being an involved citizen is a win.

Two of these new participants were from the freshbenies sales team, Neil Kennish and Mandy Baker. Today, we’re each sharing out top 2 lessons…

NEIL KENNISH - VP of Sales
Voter from Houston TX

1. Hopes for Bi-Partisan Cooperation

After four pretty tumultuous political years, it was nice to hear a combined session with Congressmen Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI). Ed and Mike are hallmates and friends. Together, they spoke of their shared passion for finding common ground to help improve healthcare transparency. 

Congressman Gallagher spoke of the need to “lower costs without compromising coverage by empowering patients with the information they need.” It was an impressive statement. One that sparked my hope these politicians understand the key underlying issues. Congressman Perlmutter went on to describe the need for enhanced transparency as a “common sense issue” and also that “good progress has already been made.” They ended the session with an emphatic declaration that a more broad-sweeping transparency bill will be passed in the future. 

Time will tell if it’s political posturing or if actual reformation will move forward. Undeniably, our healthcare system needs legislative advancement - especially with respect to enhanced transparency. How we achieve that will require more than just soundbites and posturing.     

2. Briefing of 2021 Federal Priorities

As a CapCon rookie, I greatly appreciated the prep session outlining the key focal points prior to virtual meetings with our local representatives. The team did a fantastic job outlining what was out of scope (The No Surprises Act and Broker Compensation Transparency) as well as reviewing the key items for discussion:

  • COVID-19 Relief
  • Market Stabilizers to Reduce Cost & Improve Individual & Employer Market
  • Public Option Means a “Choice for None” 
  • Medicare Issue Solutions

The organizers then went a step further to localize each of these themes to each region. So, while COVID-19 relief is a key topic of discussion for both Alaska and Arkansas, it’s critical to contextualize how relief efforts are nuanced at their specific state level. Having worked in a sales and marketing capacity for multiple Fortune 500 Companies, I’ve found roughly 80% of content is consistent across the country. Yet, it’s SO important to accurately convey the other 20%. 

Even within our great state of Texas, each major urban market is different. One cannot speak to Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio as one big Texas conglomerate. Nuances make each market unique. NAHU understands the need to have unifying national issues alongside the importance to regionalize each over-arching issue by local market. 

MANDY BAKER - Sales Executive
Voter from Altoona PA

3. New Online Habits Will Stick

COVID-19 impacted every generation and virtually (see what I did there) every enterprise. Many 2020 adjustments will far outlive the health crisis that instigated them. Why? New habits were formed among both consumers and businesses.

  • 57% of baby boomer shopping is now done online
  • 67% of seniors have a smartphone
  • Remote working, virtual meetings and online conferences exploded
  • B2B social media campaigns were fast-tracked (it’s not just for retail anymore!)
  • Thousands of companies elevated their digital experience - raising that expectation bar for everyone

When I first started in benefits 15 years ago, we hand delivered enrollment forms and returned to pick them up from offices. Honestly, it hadn’t changed all that much until 2020. In the last year, agencies pivoted to serve their clients well. From pre-recorded employee benefit presentations to connecting and engaging with clients virtually, the convenience gains are here to stay as part of the “new normal.” Agents who effectively balance tried and true personal connection alongside continued focus on online resources and social media strategies will see their business grow. 

Advocacy

4. Opinions from a U.S. Congresswoman 

Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) discussed a few of her key priorities one-year from the onset of COVID-19 coming to the United States…

  1. Broadband expansion: Demands of virtual education and work created huge challenges, particularly in less urban areas. As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the congresswoman acknowledges there’s a long path ahead. However, Republicans and Democrats both acknowledge this critical need.  
  2. Mental health access: McMorris Rodgers believes there will be bipartisan support to combat the mental health crisis in 2021. There’s a lot of momentum to help those struggling with anxiety and depression, and it’s only heightened due to the pandemic
  3. Telehealth: The committee is working to ensure Telehealth access is available throughout the country, and that those therapies are encouraged and embraced. 

It was inspiring to hear a congresswoman speak about unity across the aisle. 

REID RASMUSSEN- CoFounder & CEO
Voter from McKinney TX

5. A “Public Option” is the New Big Threat

In recent years, the legislators who wanted to take control of healthcare were all pushing for “Medicare For All.” In fact, last year, Neil and I (both ex-Canadians) held a webinar on How to Speak About M4A

Even though many Democrats ran on M4A, almost nobody is talking about it now in Congress. Rather, the new push is to create a public option medical plan to sell to individuals. I consider it the biggest current threat to free-market healthcare. There’s lots of talk about it in D.C. And lots at the state level (such as WA, CO, CT, NM, NV, OR and a dozen more), where it’s more likely to get implemented first.

The word “option” polls very well. 88% of Democrats support it, as do 44% of Republicans. But it’s a threat because ALL public options plan to force providers to accept Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements – which makes for an un-level playing field for the other private plans in the local market.

If you want more, we’ll discuss this in depth in a webinar later this month.

6. New D.C. Themes: Employer Relief & Telehealth

Almost every Democrat and Republican we spoke with emphasized two new themes I’ve never heard from them before:

  1. Employer Relief: Legislators are more concerned about the short-term urgency of fallout from COVID than any grand long-term plans. For example, they’re focused on helping employers stay in business, be able to afford current & new jobs, be able to retain health insurance, etc. Far more than, say, creating a Medicare For All system. 
  2. Telehealth: Every “D” and “R” said they are “pro Telehealth” - a new trendy catchphrase. This is meant to convey they want to do everything they can to make sure it continues for Americans. I’m not sure if I should be excited about it. At freshbenies, we’ve spent the last 11 years (with many of you) promoting Telehealth. I can’t tell how different politicians might want to regulate or mandate or set reimbursements with Telehealth. It’s certainly one I’ll watch with interest.

So, lobbying with legislators at a virtual CapCon worked surprising well. But virtual conferences definitely lack in the level of connection among attendees. We had a freshbenies exhibit booth (as we did many times in 2020). It’s just tough to draw attendees into these virtually sponsored spaces. And when interaction was created, we were limited to just a chat-booth (a video-chat might be better). Basically, we miss seeing your smiling faces! So, we’ll meet you in D.C. a year from now at CapCon 2022!    

What were your CapCon takeaways? Did you attend for the first time, or how did your experience compare to years prior? Comment below or email me at reid@freshbenies.com.

Reid

Reid has a passion for helping brokers & employers strategize fresh approaches to benefit plans that contain costs and increase access to care - helping employers & employees control their healthcare dime, time, and peace of mind. He writes & speaks around the country and is the Co-Founder & CEO of freshbenies.

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Tanya Boyd
President of Tanya Boyd & Associates

I didn’t want to go to urgent care or the ER. Using Doctors Online in my freshbenies membership, I went online to ask a doctor. The doctor responded and said to check my blood pressure. He followed up with the next day to make sure my numbers were OK. By then, the feeling was starting to go away. He told me if it persists to contact my doctor. It was great that I didn’t have to go somewhere and wait forever, and it was free.” - Kelli from Texas

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