The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) has decided to expand its advocacy to include health and employee benefits. As a result, one of its conferences — the Association of Health Insurance Advisors (AHIA) — will be closing its doors at the beginning of 2010.

According to a frequently asked question sheet released by NAIFA, the expansion was carried out because the majority of NAIFA’s members already sell health products.

As part of the extension process, all NAIFA members will become AHIA members, and AHIA will stop taking new members after Sept. 1, 2009. AHIA will continue to lobby on behalf of its members through Sept. 1.

“The expansion and full integration of health and employee benefit issues/lobbying into NAIFA is definitely a win-win for both organizations and the timing is perfect,” Robelynn Abadie, AHIA’s current president, wrote in an email to the Agent’s Sales Journal. “We started making recommendations last year to the NAIFA BOD [Board of Directors] for consideration and after numerous meetings and the appointment of an Integration Task Force, the NAIFA BOD agreed unanimously at its recent meeting to accept the Integration Project recommendations.”

NAIFA’s frequently asked question statement makes it clear that the merger will strengthen the organization’s lobbying efforts.

“As you know, health and employee benefits agents face uncertain and difficult times in the current environment — and, especially without significant numbers lobbying against issues such as a public health plan option, single payer, etc.,” the statement reads.

“Within the NAIFA Federation, we can now go to the Hill unified with more than 50,000 members … If anything we are preparing for the numerous legislative battles that face us.”

The association also said that the integration will simplify the organization’s membership structure.

“We found that we were spending time that could be used to create valuable member benefits explaining a complicated membership structure,” the statement reads. “Quite frankly, we are responding to members’ requests for simplification in membership.”