Cindy Holtzman has been selling health insurance for almost 20 years. In that time, she’s learned a lot about the business – including seeing some of the uglier side of things. That led her to become an advocate for claims issues. To this day, she is passionate about health issues, the good and bad aspects of health reform, and being the best health insurance agent she can be.

Q: Tell us about yourself. How long have you been in the business?

Cindy Holtzman: I have been a licensed health insurance agent in Georgia for 19 years. There were many claim problems in 1997-1998 when an insurance company sold their block of business and the new company paid, everything, out-of-network incorrectly. Then in February 1998, I was watching “Primetime Live” with Chris Wallace and he stated, “There is a woman billed for dental work, except she has no teeth!” I taped the show and then six months later joined The Medical Billing Advocates of America, helping others nationwide with their claim problems.

Q: Why did you become a health insurance agent?

CH: I fell into the insurance business after I lost my job as a word processing instructor, then a typewriter salesperson, and wanted to give it a try. Running an insurance agency and advocacy business gives great exposure to a huge number of areas that need to be addressed in our entire health care system.

Q: How has the health reform bill changed the game for you, if at all? What changes do you anticipate in the future as a result of the bill?

CH: What health care reform has changed now is that they just took away the ability to cover a healthy child when the parents cannot afford it themselves. This really bothers me because premiums are so high and are going to get worse. Now, the insurance companies decided they don’t want to cover children with pre-existing conditions, so they figured no single child can be covered. The unlimited lifetime caps are great and extremely necessary, because too many (usually self-insured plans) only cover $1 to $2 million maximum.

Q: Do you think health reform is a good thing for consumers? Why or why not?

CH: I love the fact that they have the high-risk pools for those uninsurable, but not too many consumers are enrolling in them.

Q: What about insurance agents? Is health reform good for them?

CH: A sad change will be the loss of agents. I truly believe we will all be out of a job because insurance companies will see us as an expense when mandatory enrollment takes effect in 2014. They are all starting to lower commissions already. I wish there was a public option, or even something like Kaiser Permanente-type centers, set up nationwide. My opinion [is that] the insurance companies are going to price-gouge us on premiums until 2014, and it has already started.

Q: What is the biggest piece of advice that you would offer for individual health agents?

CH: The biggest piece of advice for other agents is to look at disability, long term care insurance, and other ancillary products that they can still sell in 2014; possibly get a P&C license; and join our association and become a medical bill advocate (for those agents who did service their clients and have some claims exposure). I worked hard to earn my book of business, and I still have original clients since 1991. I offer excellent service so they can run their own business. We are needed, but probably not recognized by anyone in government.