The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) has helped agents stay in the health coverage ballgame, Thomas Currey said earlier this month at the group’s annual meeting in Seattle, which was attended by some 2,000 life insurance and financial services professionals.

Currey, the group’s outgoing president, talked about the health legislation battle during the conference’s opening session of the four-day meeting, which has attracted about 2,000 life insurance and financial services professionals.

Currey says NAIFA helped improve the Affordable Care Act, the legislative package that includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), by contributing to the battle to block the creation of a government-run “public option” plan.

NAIFA also played an important role in the fight to ensure that consumers will continue to have access to licensed insurance agents, and to cut out a provision that would have let the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set agent commissions, Currey says.

“Agents are still an integral part of the delivery of healthcare products to their customers,” Currey said. “[They] bring their expertise, skill and exemplary service to help consumers make the right healthcare choices.”

Currey cited legislative victories in the battle over the new Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act:

- Blocking proposals to tax life products.

- Persuading Congress to include a provision indexing the new Affordable Care Act flexible spending arrangement contribution cap for inflation.

- Thwarting efforts to appeal the limited antitrust exemption afforded to insurers by the McCarran-Ferguson Act.

- Stopping Congress from establishing “financial planning” as a recognized profession subject to an additional layer of oversight by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

- Warding off efforts to have the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulate insurance agents and retirement plan service providers.

“With these and other issues embedded in the Wall Street reform bill, NAIFA fought for Main Street and faced, perhaps, the most challenging set of issues in many years with the stampede toward regulatory reform,” Currey said. “Our success is due in part to the proactive approach NAIFA began over two years ago with visits to both SEC and FINRA–long before the financial crisis [that gave rise to] the legislation.”

NAIFA succeeded because it is doing a better job of reaching out to news organizations and using a variety of other tools, such as blogs, podcasts and Twitter feeds, to build awareness, Currey said.

“In the last 12 months, the marked increase of NAIFA’s media presence, and appearances in national financial publications, have announced [our] arrival as a credible, sought after voice by the national financial media,” Currey said. “We’re well on our way to [becoming] the credible, reliable, highly visible organization our members have long wanted NAIFA to be.”

Currey said NAIFA’s government relationships will be working more on securities-related issues as securities regulators try to get jurisdiction over equity-based insurance products.

NAIFA’s good news was tempered, however, by later announcements that it would increase membership dues in 2011 and again in 2012. It already increased dues in 2010 as part of a three-year plan to respond to the recession and to fund its Congressional battles over health insurance, financial services industry regulation, and taxation of life and annuity products. All this, amid an ongoing decline in membership that have left the group’s ranks well below their high point from a few years ago. (For more on this, see Producer’s Corner, p. 48. -Ed.)

NAIFA officials remained upbeat, noting that the group’s finances have improved and that fiscal 2010 would be the first year the group has operated since 2006 without a deficit.