The National Association of Health Underwriters says insurance agents could play an important role in helping consumers pay for medical care.

NAHU, Arlington, Va., has included a producer education provision in a package of ideas for strengthening the U.S. health finance system.

NAHU officers and staffers presented the proposal in Denver today at the group’s annual convention.

The NAHU proposal focuses on ideas for lowering the actual cost of medical care.

“Health care costs are not expensive because of insurance,” NAHU Chief Executive Janet Trautwein says in a statement about the thinking that went into the proposal. “Rather, insurance is expensive because of rising medical costs.”

One component of the NAHU proposal calls for NAHU itself to help consumers of private and public health insurance, by giving them more access to quality information and assistance.

“NAHU will assume responsibility for training insurance agents in all coverage options, both public and private, through the creation of a designation program,” NAHU says in the health finance proposal.

The new program would issue a new Certified Health Care Access Advisor professional designation, NAHU says.

Other parts of the NAHU plan call for the federal government and other parties, such as state governments, to:

- Make sure that each state offers individuals with health problems guaranteed access to a special insurance program, or risk pool, aimed at high-risk individuals.

- Offer individuals and self-employed individuals the same ability to exclude health insurance premiums from taxable income that group health plan sponsors now enjoy.

- Finance health insurance innovation programs that build on the strengths of the existing private health insurance marketplace.

- Provide tax and premium incentives for employer-sponsored wellness programs.

- Support standardized approaches to medical care.

- Offer financial incentives for physicians and medical facilities that provide efficient, high-quality care.

- Create federal standards for electronic medical records, to promote use of electronic patient health records.

- Place limits on medical malpractice suits.

- Reimburse providers who participate in the Medicaid, Medicare and government children’s health insurance plans at the same rate that the government pays providers who participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan.

- Encourage expansion of account-based health insurance plans.