Declaring the “Michael Moores of the world are 180 degrees opposed to our solutions,” the outgoing president of the National Association of Health Underwriters used his farewell address to blast Moore’s new film attacking the health insurance industry and declared the industry was facing a battle for the minds of the American public.
David L. Fear said he had no intention of viewing Moore’s new film, “Sicko,” but warned members that millions of Americans were likely to view it and hear its message that government must intervene to assure health care insurance is available to all Americans.
“I reject that thinking and so should every one of you,” he declared to enthusiastic applause.
He noted, however, that “we live in a society that thrives on sound bites” and said the industry needed to be able to counter the arguments advocated in “Sicko.”
He pointed to NAHU’s Mission Statement, which declared the association’s devotion to giving the public access to private insurance and the services of insurance professionals.
For every problem the industry had, it had many more successes, including the fact that it covers 85% of Americans, Fear argued.
“It has its challenges, but so do health care systems in Canada, Japan and other countries,” he said. “We should be proud of the system we have and not be apologetic because it does work.”
In addition to a movie trailer of Moore’s new film, he showed a preview of another new film that takes an opposing point of view and which NAHU, in part, funded.
The film, “Sick and Sicker,” makes the point that the Canadian health care system suffers from shortages of hospital beds and doctors, among other problems.
Fear announced that NAHU’s Legislative Council was preparing a new program that would counter the criticisms heard of the industry, including those from politicians advocating universal health care coverage backed by the government.
“The challenge we have is to out-vocalize them,” he said of the industry’s critics. The aim of the council is to intensify lobbying work that needs to be done in Washington, state capitals and with state insurance regulators to assure the industry’s point of view is heard and understood, he insisted.
Fear said the recently proposed $50 increase in the association’s membership dues would largely be used toward that end. He had pushed for the increase because he believed it was vital.
“At the end of the day, I have to be able to say we’ve done the right thing,” he said. The industry is looking toward a battle for our profession, he said, and “we will have to fund this war with our dues money.”
He remembered NAHU members voted for a $20 dues increase in 1995 that largely paid for its successful campaign against “Hillary Care,” the universal health care proposal advanced by Hillary Clinton while she was First Lady, along with local battles against adverse health care proposals in such states as California, Kentucky and Colorado.
He said the organization now faces a fight similar to the one against “Hillary Care.”
Fear recalled what Ms. Clinton said at the time, when a health care insurance professional asked her what would become of his job if her proposal went through.
“You appear to be a very intelligent person,” Fear remembered Ms. Clinton saying, “and I’m sure you can find something else to do for a living.”
“No one else [but NAHU] is going to fight this battle for our existence,” he said. “It will take time, talent and money.”
In other matters, Fear said his administration had made good progress toward its goal of increasing the number of licensed agents joining the association through intensified member recruitment and chapter development. He also noted, however, the association continued to see too many members leave. One reason: Some chapters were not meeting his goal that all local NAHU groups would hold regular meetings. “If we don’t give value, we lose members,” he observed.
Still, he noted, NAHU had added 4 new chapters in New England during his administration.
Other achievements he noted:
–The roll out of a Broker-to-Broker online messaging Web site that allowed brokers across the country to communicate about issues and concerns.
–Efforts to reach producers in markets outside of the health care arena, notably disability, long term care insurance, worksite marketing, senior products, and recruiting them to NAHU.
–Establishment of a new agent task force to recruit industry newcomers to the ranks of NAHU.