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Advisor Groups Warn About Tax Reform, Praise Bush Health Ideas

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Organizations that represent insurance agents and other financial professionals say they are happy with what President Bush left out of his State of the Union address Tuesday as well as what he put in.

The groups say they like the president’s health finance reform proposals and are relieved that he made no mention of taxing annuities or life insurance policies.

Here is a sampling of the groups’ reactions:

- The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Falls Church, Va., says it is happy that the president left the sweeping changes recommended in 2005 by a key federal tax reform panel out of the State of the Union address.

The tax reform panel had suggested that the government consider taxing some health insurance benefits and the buildup of at least some of the cash value within life insurance and annuity contracts. The panel said Congress should replace many current tax breaks, including those that now protect inside buildup, with a new system of broadly based savings accounts.

When the tax reform panel issued its report, some observers said Bush might include the panel’s recommendations in policy proposals that would appear in the State of the Union address.

“NAIFA is encouraged that it does not appear that the Bush administration will pursue tax reform initiatives that would undermine the ability of Americans to achieve financial and retirement security,” NAIFA says in its statement.

Taxing the “inside buildup” of life insurance and annuity contract values “would discourage Americans from purchasing the only products guaranteed to last a lifetime,” NAIFA says. “Families need to save, but they also need to protect against the financial loss at death at any age through permanent life insurance. And they must guard against outliving their retirement savings through the guarantees only annuities can provide. The [tax reform panel proposals] would needlessly make millions of families vulnerable to the financial risks associated with death while also exposing millions of older Americans to the threat of outliving savings.”

NAIFA members organized a massive letter-writing campaign against the tax reform panel’s savings plan recommendations, and it also worked closely with other industry groups, including the American Council of Life Insurers, Washington, and a key NAIFA affiliate, the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting, to keep the proposals from moving forward, NAIFA says.

“While President Bush did not indicate he will pursue fundamental tax reform in 2006, NAIFA is by no means claiming victory,” NAIFA says. “The president could raise the issue again in his annual budget message, scheduled for Feb. 7.”

- The Association of Health Insurance Advisors, an arm of NAIFA, is supporting the president’s call for affordable health care.

“AHIA supported the enactment of HSAs and is eager to work with the administration and Congress to see them enhanced,” AHIA says in its statement. “HSA opponents have suggested the accounts are for the wealthy only.”

AHIA President Debra Newman reports in the AHIA statement that many employees in HSA programs seem to like HSAs.

AHIA believes that reforming the private health care delivery system is the best way to ensure choice, quality and affordability, the group says.

- The National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va., is welcoming the president’s support for expanding the health savings account program, promoting use of electronic medical records and reforming the medical malpractice system.

“Our health care system and the consumers who depend on it are facing an unprecedented $2 trillion per year crisis of rising costs, resulting in reduced access to both quality health care and affordable health insurance,” NAHU Chief Executive Janet Trautwein says. “We believe there is no one magic answer to the problem of the uninsured and rising health care costs. A multifaceted approach will be required, since the American population is very diverse, and no one solution will fit the needs of all of our citizens.”

- The Financial Planning Association, Denver, is praising the president’s proposals to make tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 permanent.

“Capital gains and dividends rates at 15% have given investors a tax savings that has increased cash flow,” FPA President Daniel Moisand says in his group’s statement. “Retirement savings is vitally important for Americans, and simplification is key to encouraging savings. We need expanded savings opportunities for Americans planning for retirement that also would help families and individuals meet other financial planning goals.”

About the president’s proposal to form a committee on Social Security reform, Moisand says the FPA would “generally support programs that restore Social Security solvency.”

“Many planners are concerned over Social Security eventually affecting their clients’ future incomes in retirement,” Moisand says.

The FPA also welcomes the president’s assertion that employer-sponsored health insurance should be more portable, Moisand says.


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