Insurance News

25 House Members Go To Bat For Agents On Future Health Care Role

Posted on: July 28, 2010

Twenty-five members of the House have asked federal health regulators to ensure a role for licensed insurance agents in the web portal that will be used to aid consumers in comparing coverage options.

The Department of Health and Human Services unveiled the web portal July 1 on a trial basis. An update with more comprehensive information is scheduled to be in place as of Oct. 1.

The web portal is seen as a precursor to the health insurance exchanges that will be launched in 2014 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

?We strongly encourage you to include the ability for consumers to contact certified, state-licensed independent health insurance agents and brokers for assistance when comparing coverage options,? a letter from the House members said.

?It is important the consumer?s options to contact independent and state-licensed health insurance agents and brokers be included no later than Oct. 1,? the letter said.

Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., originated the letter, and eight Democrats and 17 Republicans signed it.

?It is our belief that consumers will benefit from this arrangement and will respond positively to the new portal method of purchasing health insurance if they are able to access the personalized service of an insurance agent or broker,? the letter said.

Only three Democrats who voted for the legislation signed the letter: Rep. Leonard Boswell of Iowa; Rep. Baron Hill of Indiana; and Rep. Adam Smith of Washington.

An official of the National Association of Health Underwriters confirmed that NAHU played a role in having the members sign the letter.

John Green, NAHU vice president of congressional affairs, said health insurance agents should certainly play a key role in counseling people about their health insurance options going forward.

?Providing consumers with the option to choose a local agent at the ZIP code level to assist them in choosing the right coverage for the individual or family makes sense,? he said.

?You wouldn?t want to call Washington to find out your home or car insurance options; you want someone you can look in the eye and call in the middle of night,? he said.

The agents have launched an aggressive campaign to ensure a role in providing health insurance to consumers going forward.

They are also lobbying state regulators who are playing a key role in implementing the new health care system going forward to ensure that the medical loss ratio provision scheduled to go into effect by year-end doesn?t end their role in servicing the small group and individual health insurance market.

On the portal issue, the 25 members of Congress noted that in writing the health care reform law, ?Congress made sure to explicitly include provisions to give consumers access to independent and state-licensed health insurance agents and brokers in a reformed health insurance marketplace, both inside and outside health insurance exchanges.?

© Copyright 2010 National Underwriter Property & Casualty. A Summit Business Media publication. All Rights Reserved.

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