Posted on 22 Sep 2009
As the debate on healthcare reform continues in Congress, the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) is reminding lawmakers that consumers must not be denied access to the advice of licensed, professional, independent insurance agents in any reform plan devised by Congress.
One initial proposal for health insurance exchanges would have barred the participation of all licensed insurance agents, instead utilizing unlicensed individuals or community groups with no expertise in health insurance. Subsequently, during hearings on America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200) in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, an amendment was passed that gives explicit authority to insurance agents to sell insurance in any exchange that the legislation may create.
“We find it incredible that any of the healthcare bills would attempt to ban the participation of licensed, professional, independent insurance agents,” said PIA National President Kenneth R. Auerbach, Esq. “In no other area is being certified and licensed considered a disqualifying factor. That’s like saying physicians cannot have medical accreditation, attorneys cannot be members of the Bar or auto mechanics cannot be certified technicians.”
“When the prohibition was included in one of the bills, it was suggested that unlicensed individuals with no training or expertise in health insurance would better serve as so-called ‘navigators,’ helping people choose which health plan they participate in,” Auerbach said. “Professional, independent insurance agents already help their customers navigate the health insurance choices that are currently available to them. The added complexity of a reformed system will make such assistance even more critical.”
The House amendment, sponsored by Blue Dog Democrats Reps. Charlie Melancon (D-La.), Mike Ross (D-Ar.), Baron Hill (D-Ind.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Zack Space (D-Ohio), John Barrow (D-Ga.) and Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), guarantees that agents and brokers can participate in the process.
“We thank the Blue Dog members of the House for ensuring that American consumers will not be denied the services of their own independent insurance agents under healthcare reform,” said PIA National President-elect Jon D. Spalding. “We are especially grateful to Rep. Melancon of Louisiana, who knows the importance of this issue because he is a former insurance agent and member of PIA.”