Las Vegas -- The U.S. Supreme Court kept members of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) in a state of fog Monday by deciding to wait until Thursday, or later, to post a ruling on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA).
NAHU, Washington, already had scheduled four tracks of professional development seminars for Monday, and attendees coped with the continuing uncertainty by networking, politicking for regional and national NAHU offices, and meeting state continuing education requirements.
Session presenters and other attendees tried to play down the amount of psychic pain caused by the need to wait several more days for the Supreme Court's PPACA ruling.
The ruling "will not affect long-term health care strategy," Sam Fleet, president of AmWINS Group Benefits, Warwick, R.I., said at a session on making self-funding available to small and midsize group plans. "It really just doesn't matter."
Fleet argued that the real driver of U.S. health system change over the next few years will be the collision of high and rising U.S. health care costs with tight government budgets.
"The federal government's out of money," Fleet said. "The states are flat broke.... We're not Greece, but we're not far behind."
Ron Goldstein, president of CHOICE Administrators, Orange, Calif., an arm of Word & Brown that has been running government and private health insurance exchange programs, or Web-based health insurance supermarkets, for years, suggested at a session on exchanges that producers should try to avoid obsessing too much about health insurance policy.
"Policy is not going to sell business," Goldstein said.
Retail producers at the meeting said they were focusing on finding ways to strengthen and diversify their own skills and their own businesses.
Laura Staller, a young Tampa, Fla., agent who sells group life and disability and voluntary benefits, said she had joined NAHU just a year ago and found belonging to the group already has helped her develop as a professional.
Staller said that she has learned how the insurance business works in other parts of the country by talking to other NAHU members, and that she already has had a chance to serve on a local chapter board.
"If you want to get involved, the opportunity's there," Staller said. "It really grows as far as you want it to grow."
David Smith, a Morrisville, N.C., broker who has been active in NAHU for decades, noted that he has a friend in the travel agency business who went through the upheaval caused by airfare rate deregulation and the rise of Internet agencies.
That friend has survived, and thrived, by adapting, Smith said.
Today, Smith said, there is huge upheaval in the health insurance business.
But "a lot of the people who do what we're doing are in a stage of over reacting," he said. "They're trying to sell their business.... The people at this convention are the strong ones."
The brokers who use NAHU and other means to stay current and learn how to adapt should do well, Smith said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article described NAHU's location incorrectly. NAHU has moved to Washington.
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