By Robert Freedman, Senior Editor, REALTOR® Magazine
Few legislative efforts in Washington are more complicated than health care reform. The legislation that’s now under debate in the Senate is more than 2,000 pages long (2,074 to be exact).
Given the breadth and depth of the legislation in the House as well as in the Senate, it’s a full-time job understanding what the impact will be on you should a bill finally make its way to President Obama for signature—something that could actually happen in another month or so.
As you’re likely aware, the House has already passed its bill and the Senate is working through a big list of amendments to its bill. Once those amendments are addressed, debate starts on the bill itself. Under any scenario the vote will be close, but a bill could pass. Then the House and Senate must merge their bills and send the compromise bill back to their chambers for a vote. Then the bill goes to the President.
What’s the bottom line for you? I sat down with Marcia Salkin, NAR’s managing director of public policy and someone who’s actually gone through all 2,074 pages of the Senate legislation and the equally weighty House legislation, to find out how REALTORS® come out. Her verdict: You’re actually in pretty good shape, although there remain issues of concern among portions of NAR members. (As a side note, NAR has not taken a position on either the House or the Senate bill, although it’s worked a lot behind the scenes to ensure both bills remain small-business friendly.)
On the positive side, there are very real reforms to insurance underwriting and rating (pricing) rules that will help those of you in the small-group market. That those reforms are even in the bills can be chalked up in part to NAR and other groups that over the last half dozen years hammered out small business insurance reforms with lawmakers. Much of what was in different versions of NAR-supported reform was included in both the House and the Senate bills.
What are some of those reforms? In a nutshell, small-group plans have to be treated more like large-group plans. Thus, insurers won’t be able to deny you coverage or refuse to renew your policy because of your heath and other matters. Even differences in premiums because of age would be greatly reduced.
More contentious are some of the issues you hear about in the news: the public option, the employer mandate, and the individual mandate. On these issues, some important changes have been made to earlier versions. Among other things, there are significant exclusions to the employer mandate for small businesses. Since most real estate businesses are small, those exclusions are key. What’s more, there are other provisions that ease burdens for small businesses.
Since passage is a very real possibility now, you might take a few minutes to get a better understanding of what the changes could mean to you. In the video above, Marcia Salkin explains the bills’ potential impact on REALTORS®. The video takes about seven minutes.
You can also access more information on the health reform page at REALTOR.org.