What the Repeal of Obamacare Means for Selling Health Insurance Prospects

May 18, 2017
Repeal of Obamacare

Repeal of ObamacareWe’re past 100 days of a new President Trump Administration, and an Obamacare repeal has not come to pass. It still stands, for now. What does this mean for aged health insurance leads? And what does it mean for you, as a health insurance agent?

These are questions that are hard to answer at this point. We don’t have the surety of a general describing how an attack is going to be carried out. And we don’t have anything resembling a victory. We seem to be in the trenches. The battle for the future of healthcare is being waged, but it’s not clear how things will turn out.

What is clear is that the agent’s task has gotten a bit harder this spring. In this post, I’ll share my thoughts on some new information, a few thoughts on what to keep your eyes on, and some advice about how to approach sales with your prospects for the foreseeable future.

Poll: Americans Getting Cold Feet on Repeal

A new HealthDay/Harris Poll came out earlier this month, and the biggest takeaway seems to be that Americans are getting cold feet about healthcare reform. Just six months ago, half the country voted for Mr. Trump, who campaigned heavily on this “repeal and replace” promise. Today, just 21%, one in five, still think repeal and replace is the right move. In my book, that’s a fairly substantial loss of support for this policy.

However, there’s more to the story than that. Just because Americans have lost interest in this policy slogan doesn’t mean they’re happy with their health insurance. In fact, that seems to be the second biggest takeaway from this survey. Only 8% are happy with US insurance staying the way it is.

So what about the rest? Two-thirds want “the law kept in place and improved where needed” — basically that’s a vote for reform without the political showmanship of “repeal and replace.”

Another factor of note: there’s majority consumer support for all the most popular ACA provisions — pre-existing condition guarantees, premium subsidies, employer health plan requirements, young adult family plan coverage, and even Medicaid expansion. Only the individual mandate remains unpopular. Ironically, these popular ACA features are blamed for surging premiums and fewer exchange plan options.

Health Insurance and Unknown Risks

I’m reminded of an article published in January by J.B. Silver, a former health insurance CEO and university professor, which takes a look at the future of health insurance under a repeal scenario. At the time, President Trump hadn’t been sworn in, there hadn’t been talk of executive orders, and Congress hadn’t failed spectacularly to get a bill to the President’s desk.

Fast-forward to the present, and Silver’s predictions seem all the more important. Here are three main points:

  • “If the uncertainty of this market was large before with the ACA, it is almost unknowable under whatever comes next.”
  • “It is easy to predict that this induced uncertainty from Congress will effectively kill the exchanges even if it delays the implementation of repeal. As a result, all of the individuals who have benefited from coverage and subsidies will lose out.”  
  • “If we want them to continue to do the good things required by the ACA, we can’t make it so uncertain. What this means is that the mechanisms designed to reduce risk and a stable set of operating arrangements must be reaffirmed as core principles of all reform and replace efforts.”

In short, we should probably anticipate things getting worse before they get better. Secondly, risk of the unknown is key. The more muddled things get in Washington, the more we could expect to see premiums rise and insurers exit the ACA state exchanges.

Selling to Aged Health Insurance Leads Now

For agents selling health insurance in this environment, I think there are two things that need to be done:

  • Asking new questions to gauge where prospects sit with healthcare politics.
  • Providing new information that’s up to date on healthcare products and policy developments.

Going back to the Harris Poll survey, respondents were divided predictably along party lines. More Republicans want a repeal of the current law, more Democrats want to keep it, etc. So it could be beneficial to get a reading early in your sales call on what your prospect thinks of the healthcare politics. That could then inform how you approach the rest of your sales conversation and lead to a higher close rate.

To the other point, agents have to be knowledgeable about their products and new Washington developments in this kind of selling environment. Your leads are looking for help buying a complex product and need the assurance that you are the most qualified person to meet their needs in this trying time. The more you can help guide them through this, the better.

So the effects on sales are twofold. You’ll be better positioned to relate to and sell to your leads if you pick their brains a bit about this whole Obamacare repeal question. And you’ll do better when it’s time to close by being very knowledgeable about the latest developments.

Selling health insurance is likely to be more complicated for the foreseeable future, but these are two things you can do today to meet the challenge and grow your business.

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