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Professional Insurance Agents Complete Nationwide Month of Meetings with Members of Congress as Key Session Looms

WASHINGTON, September 3, 2009 - Members of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) have completed a successful month-long series of meetings...
September 3, 2009

Support for Private Sector Healthcare, State Regulation of Insurance Key Issues During Agents' Congressional Visits

WASHINGTON, September 3, 2009  - Members of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) have completed a successful month-long series of meetings with members of Congress focused on issues that are key to professional independent insurance agents and their clients.

"The involvement of our members was more critical this year than ever," said PIA National President Kenneth R. Auerbach, Esq. "With Congress poised to act on issues that are crucial to agents and their clients, our continuing advocacy is imperative."

Throughout the month of August, PIA members across the country met with their elected representatives in their home districts during the annual summer congressional recess. The insurance agents offered their input on issues including healthcare reform, federal regulation of insurance and natural catastrophe legislation, along with flood insurance and crop insurance.

Support for Private Healthcare

The agents' visits with lawmakers came as negotiations on healthcare reform proposals continued during the August congressional recess. While much media attention was directed at town hall forums, PIA focused instead on individual meetings with members of Congress and their staffs. "We wanted to be sure that our views were heard fully so we opted for face-to-face, personal meetings with lawmakers," said Auerbach.

"Professional Insurance Agents believe in prudent health care reform," Auerbach said. "By prudent we mean reform that provides our clients with better, cost effective care that makes America stronger. In our August meetings, we told lawmakers that we hope they will be guided by our principles as they decide the merits of the various proposals."

In June, PIA issued its eight Principles for Health Care Reform. PIA believes that the private health insurance system should form the basis of any health care reform and that Congress should build on the private health care delivery system, not seek to dismantle it.

PIA's Principles for Health Care Reform:

  1. Build on and support the private health care system, don't dismantle it
  2. Improve existing government programs
  3. Do not create a government-owned insurance agency or brokerage
  4. Preserve the role of independent agents and brokers
  5. Build upon successful state-based innovations
  6. Do not tax employer-provided health care benefits
  7. Encourage cost controls and wellness programs
  8. Congress should forge the broadest possible consensus before enacting any reform legislation

PIA has spoken in opposition to the concept of health care exchanges as proposed by some reform advocates that would function as government-owned insurance agencies or brokerages. When originally proposed, licensed professional health insurance agents would have been prohibited from participating in the exchanges.  Subsequently, conservative Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee added a provision to proposed reform legislation that would grant agents explicit authority to sell policies within the health insurance exchanges envisioned under the legislation. The provision would also give agents the authority to sell a public plan, if that controversial option is created in the final version of the legislation.

Agents' Meetings

PIA National Director Bob Shanley met with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) along with a delegation of PIA members from Connecticut on Monday August 31. "The meeting with Sen. Lieberman went very well," Shanley said. "He agreed with us that the move to pass healthcare reform is going too fast and that slowing it down is a good idea." Shanley added that Lieberman's staff believes that some kind of healthcare reform "is coming."

"Maine had a successful day for our first time participating in this event," said PIA of Maine National Director Gary Blackwell. "We had a very good visit with Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Me.) and were able to get all our points across. I was somewhat surprised at his candor as he told us about a healthcare discussion that took place in a recent caucus meeting with Democratic leadership."

Members of PIA of Louisiana met with Reps. Charles W. Boustany. Jr. (R-La.) and Charlie Melancon (D-La.). Melancon, a former insurance agent and member of PIA, met with a delegation including PIA National Director Richard A. "Richie" Clements of Chalmette, Louisiana. "Rep. Melancon urged the importance of cutting through the partisan politics and getting straight to the issues," Clements said. "We discussed our top priorities with the congressman who, as a former insurance agent and PIA member, is in sync with us. We also thanked Rep. Melancon for advancing a key amendment ensuring that agents will have the authority to sell policies within health care exchanges, if they are created."

In addition to health care, the insurance agents discussed their other priorities.

Federal Regulation: Among proposals being debated in Congress are those that would federalize insurance regulation. PIA supports state regulation of insurance and opposes turning it over to a federal bureaucrat.

Natural Catastrophes: Congress is paying particularly close attention to natural disasters and how to cope with them. PIA is actively supporting legislation to encourage mitigation efforts and advising lawmakers against creating programs that will compete with the private market.

Flood Insurance: The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is once again set to expire. The House has passed a temporary extension and the Senate needs to follow suit. The NFIP is in need of comprehensive reform along with a multi-year renewal to ensure a successful, sound future.
 
Crop Insurance: A successful crop insurance program is essential for our nation's farmers and continued budget cuts will have detrimental effects on the program. Congress is currently debating making additional, considerable cuts to the program which would directly affect crop insurance agents and the farmers they serve. PIA is urging Congress not to make unnecessary cuts.

PIA capped off its nationwide series of congressional contacts with the release of the PIA Insurance Foundation's major white paper on the future of insurance regulation, Future of the Business Disciplines, Regulation and Oversight of the U.S. Insurance Marketplace by former Director of the Illinois Department of Insurance Mark Boozell. The white paper was distributed to every member of Congress.

 "When Congress reconvenes, decisions will be made which will have a dramatic impact on the businesses of independent agents," said PIA National Federal Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Lee. "It is critical that the views of professional insurance agents are well represented in the legislative process."
 
"PIA's August advocacy combined in-person meetings with online grassroots outreach in congressional districts across the country, from Washington State to Florida and from Maine to Louisiana," said PIA Executive Vice President & CEO Leonard C. Brevik. "It is just one element of our year-round lobbying to ensure that when the time comes to cast critical votes, members of Congress will know exactly where Main Street agents stand on the issues."

Founded in 1931, PIA is a national trade association that represents member insurance agents and their employees who sell and service all kinds of insurance, but specialize in coverage of automobiles, homes and businesses. PIA members are Local Agents Serving Main Street America(SM). PIA's web address is www.pianet.com.

A PIA delegation meets with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) on August 31, 2009.
A PIA delegation meets with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) on August 31,
2009. (Left to right): James A. Goodman, CIC, PIA of Connecticut president;
Robert C. Shanley, CIC, PIA of Connecticut past president and current national
director; Sen. Joseph Lieberman; Howard S. Olderman, PIA of Connecticut
president-elect; Timothy G. Russell, CPCU, PIA of Connecticut vice president.

 

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