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NAIFA Speaker: Health Debate Not Just For Health Agents

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The health care battle in Washington could affect many insurance producers outside the benefits field, Dennis Sunderman said today.

Sunderman talked about the potential scope of health legislation today during a conference call organized by National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Falls Church, Va. Sunderman is an agent himself and the state Insurance and Financial Advisors Political Action Committee chair in California.

When NAIFA and other groups organized a Washington “fly in” earlier this summer, to spread producers’ views on health reform on Capitol Hill, “we felt that we couldn’t afford not to go,” Sunderman said. “We want to be part of any decisionmaking process.”

One reason is that health insurance and other benefits programs continue to be big revenue generators for many NAIFA members, and another reason is that a health bill could have direct and indirect effects on lines of business other than health insurance, Sunderman said.

If a health reform effort expanded government programs, that could put even more pricing power in the hands of government plans, and that could shift even more costs onto the shoulders of the remaining private plans, Sunderman said.

A long term care insurance program proposal included in some versions of the health bill also could cause huge problems, by creating a poorly designed, poorly funded LTC program that would give Americans a false sense of security about LTC expenses, Sunderman said.

That false sense of security could have obvious effects on the private LTC insurance market, but it also could undermine the value of annuities, Sunderman said.

Meanwhile, when members of Congress were trying to decide how to pay for expensive new health care programs, they might try to raise the revenue using means that would affect life insurance products and customers, Sunderman said.

NAIFA members who want to make their voices heard on health reform should give generously to NAIFA lobbying efforts and keep up their own grassroots communications efforts, Sunderman said.

As the fly-in started, there were some rumblings that the health bills being drafted in Congress might not let health insurance agents have anything to do with selling health insurance exchange coverage, Sunderman recalled.

While the agents were in Washington for the fly-in, news surfaced that agents would indeed be able to participate, Sunderman said.

“Now all of a sudden, we were brought back to the table,” Sunderman said.


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