BY ARTHUR D. POSTAL

House Majority Leader John Boehner says progress is being made in crafting compromise defined benefit pension reform legislation.

Boehner vowed there would be a provision in the bill allowing insurance agents to provide investment advice to their 401(k) customers “in some form.”

He made his comments before the annual national legislative conference and convention of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America.

While the insurance industry plays a key role in funding defined benefit plans, its major interest in the legislation are provisions that add a long term care rider to annuities, provide for automatic enrollment in 401(k) programs for new employees and allow agents to provide investment advice where the insurer they work for administers a 401(k) program for a company.

The industry also wants the final bill to include language that would codify current tax treatment of corporate owned life insurance and establish certain best practices for their sale.

In comments before he spoke to the agents, Boehner said he has long supported reducing the conflict-of-interest provisions in ERISA and therefore allowing agents to provide investment advice.

But the provision, included in legislation he shepherded through the House, has drawn concerns from Senate members of the Conference Committee reconciling different versions of the bill.

Boehner denied reports that negotiations to complete work on the bill had bogged down, raising concerns that work on the bill may not be completed before Congress heads home for a Memorial Day recess.

“We had another meeting last night and real progress was made” in drafting a compromise bill, Boehner said.

In his comments to the agents, Boehner reiterated his strong support for legislation creating association health plans and easing the tax consequences of owning a health savings account. He also insisted that passing legislation dealing with these two issues is a priority for Congress.

However, analysts say the AHP bill, on which a Senate vote could occur as early as the week of May 1, is unlikely to pass that body.