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Amidst Health Insurance Turmoil, NAHU's Growth Continues

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Amidst Health Insurance Turmoil, NAHUs Growth Continues
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Dallas

The U.S. major medical market may be in a crisis, but leaders of the National Association Health Underwriters said NAHU has had a good year.

NAHU officers and staff members who spoke here at the Arlington, Va., health insurance agent groups 72nd national convention acknowledged the increasing pressure members face.

Kevin Corcoran, NAHUs executive vice president, talked about the need to help local chapters strengthen recruitment of new members by easing demands on the officers of the local chapters.

“Your jobs are getting harder,” Corcoran told NAHU members at the opening general session. “Your commissions are getting squeezed.”

But NAHU has a balanced budget, contributions to its political action committee have tripled, and its grassroots lobbying fund has accumulated more than $600,000, according to Bynum Tuttle Jr., the immediate past president.

The grassroots fund, which can lobby on issues but cannot make campaign contributions to specific candidates, is so strong that NAHU will be using some of the cash for key state lobbying efforts, he said.

Many NAHU members have responded to the turmoil in the traditional major medical market by shifting toward the sale of other types of health insurance products. NAHU has followed their lead by organizing industry interest groups that focus on dental insurance, disability insurance, long term care insurance, Medicare supplement insurance, self-funded health plans, and worksite marketing. NAHU continues to expand those groups, and its also working harder to reach out to large property-casualty insurers that sell major medical coverage, speakers said.

Even the membership picture is looking bright: recruitment of brand new members fell 18% in 2001, but the recruitment rate has rebounded to 2000 levels so far this year, Corcoran said.

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Meanwhile, because the retention rate for existing members has increased to 81.5%, total membership actually increased 1.5% in 2001, to 17,300, Corcoran reported.

“Membership is up,” he said. “Were probably the only agent association in America that can say that right now.”

NAHU has formed 12 new local chapters in the last year, including four in Wisconsin, three in Utah, two in Iowa, and one each in Colorado, Michigan and Oregon.

NAHU has also formed a leadership development council to help create and nurture more new local chapters, and it has realigned its regions to give the Rocky Mountain chapters a region of their own, instead of lumping them together with the West Coast chapters.

Eva Jean Fomalont, a health insurance agent from Albuquerque, N.M., who succeeded Tuttle as NAHUs president, says the shift toward ancillary and voluntary products, away from traditional group major medical insurance, has not necessarily been a serious problem for most experienced health agents.

“People who can sell can sell any product,” she said.

Fomalont herself now acts as a company representative for a seller of ancillary benefits: she is the sales manager for Delta Dental Plan of New Mexico.

But Fomalont says NAHU continues to want to play a role in shaping state and national major medical legislation, because NAHU members want to do everything possible to use free-market principles to improve the system and help consumers.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, July 1, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.