The life insurance industry could face an uphill battle in the new Congress.[@@]
Frank Keating, president, said in an interview Wednesday that the industry will have to work hard to persuade the new Congress and the new administration to support the life industry’s agenda.
President Bush seems to have won a clear victory. Republicans have retained control of the House, and it looks as if they will hold 55 seats in the Senate, up from 51 today.
Many business groups are celebrating. But the Republican emphasis on tax cuts could hurt sales of life insurance products that offer tax advantages, and many Republicans, including 5 new freshman Republicans from the South, may be slow to support legislation that would create an optional federal charter, Keating said.
The American Benefits Council, Washington, voiced equal skepticism, with president James Klein noting that, “The election results are a mandate on national security, not health or retirement security.” Klein explained that, “Pension and health care issues were actually less of a focus for the candidates than anyone might have expected ? especially since the passage of major Medicare reform a year ago led us all to believe that health care would play an even more prominent role in the campaign.”
Klein’s concern is that Bush will continue to pursue his agenda without Democratic support, even though he believes better policies are created when “the president and Republicans and Democrats in Congress find common ground.”
The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, Washington, says in a memo to members that there will be a wide range of employee benefit, specifically, group-health, issues that the new Congress and administration will attempt to deal with.
In the memo, the CIAB says President Bush “put a big focus this year on the enactment of association health plans to allow small businesses to pool their resources to expand purchasing power.”
The CIAB says many people in the benefits business believe that “AHPs would exacerbate existing problems of companies exiting the health insurance marketplace, increasing cherry-picking.
“Thanks to leaders such as (freshly reelected) Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire (who chairs the primary committee of jurisdiction), AHPs have gone nowhere in the Senate despite several positive House votes in recent years,” the memo says. “It is too early to tell whether the election results will give legs to these proposals.”
The CIAB also says that, the pressure for new health insurance mandates, or a trial-lawyer-friendly “Patient Bill of Rights,” “have decreased substantially.”