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Health Agents Defend Value

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WASHINGTON–Congress should include agents and brokers in any health reform efforts, not shut them out, producer groups say.

The groups are making the case for keeping producers involved in a letter they are sending this week to the chairman and highest-ranking Republicans on six House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over health reform bills.

The groups that sent the letter are the Association of Health Insurance Advisors, Falls Church, Va.; the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, Washington; the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America Inc., Alexandria, Va.; the National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va.; and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Falls Church, Va.

The groups say they represent a total of more than 500,000 health insurance agents, brokers, advisors, consultants and employee benefit specialists.

Congress has been talking about the possibility of giving working-age adults the option of buying health coverage from a new, government-run health insurance plan.

Congress also has been talking about helping consumers buy coverage through a web-based health insurance supermarket system. The Senate Finance Committee, for example, has proposed calling the system, the “Health Insurance Exchange.”

“We would have strong concerns with any legislative proposal that would deprive access to the services of professional agents, brokers and consultants,” the producer groups write in their letter. “There is no way a governmental agency in some far-off location could match the service and value agents and brokers bring to their clients.”

Professional health insurance producers “help individuals and employers purchase health insurance coverage that best fit their specific budget and health care needs,” the groups write. “More importantly, agents and brokers help their clients resolve day-to-day issues that may arise after the point of sale. As benefit specialists, professional health insurance agents and brokers design benefit plans, resolve claims disputes, conduct enrollments/terminations, assist with COBRA administration, and solve complex billing issues.”