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Medicare Looms Over Health Agents' Meeting

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Members of the National Association of Health Underwriters may tend to have mixed feelings about government involvement in health insurance, but they’re happy they can still sell Medicare supplement and Medicare Advantage plans.

The growing role of the Medicare plan market as a storm shelter for health insurance agents has helped shape NAHU 2018 annual convention.

NAHU, a group that represents about 100,000 health insurance agents and brokers, started its 88th annual convention in Kansas City, Missouri, on Saturday.

(Related: NAHU to Expand Medicare Plan Efforts)

Kansas City straddles the line between Kansas and Missouri. It has its own nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan. A nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield serves the rest of Kansas, and a unit of Anthem Inc. has the Blue Cross and Blue Shield marks for the rest of Missouri. Many other carrier have traditionally competed hard for major medical business there.

The overview agenda for the four-day event shows a total of six sponsored meals and parties prominent enough for their sponsors to show up in the agenda. One sign of the turmoil in the major medical market is that Pan-American Life, which offers a supplemental employee health benefits program, is the only carrier serving as the sponsor for one of those six events.

The only breakout session speaker affiliated with an insurer appears to be Henry Vazquez, national director of Medicare supplements at Torchmark Corp.

This year, NAHU is offering on session on long-term care insurance and related products, along with an entire breakout session track on private Medicare plans.

The Medicare track includes a legislative update session and a session on the Medicare Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) program. The PACE program offers what amounts to a package of Medicare-based long-term care benefits for people who already need long-term care: comprehensive Medicare benefits, including home care benefits, designed for people who live in the community and have enough health problems to qualify for Medicaid nursing home benefits.

Members of the NAHU House of Delegates are voting today on a slate of 2018-2019 board of trustee candidates that includes Russell Rice as the candidate for president.

The other officer candidates are Patricia Griffey, for president-elect; R. Dane Rianhard, for vice president; Eugene Starks, for treasurer; and Kelly Fristoe, for secretary.

Rice, who is currently NAHU’s president-elect, is a regional vice president of sales at Avesis, a Guardian unit that offers vision, dental and hearing benefits programs.

Griffey, who is currently NAHU’s vice president, specializes in offering Medicare plans.

Rianhard, who is currently NAHU’s treasurer, is the highest level NAHU officer in the major medical market. He focuses on selling life insurance, and an offering benefit plans to larger employers.

A few years ago, NAHU meetings offered sessions on products such as Affordable Care Act public exchange plan coverage and stand-alone long-term care insurance.

The only session on the breakout session schedule with the Affordable Care Act in its description is one on workplace wellness program compliance issues.

NAHU has tried to help members through challenging times for the major medical insurance market by organizing an event, on Sunday afternoon, that featured “conversations about fortitude.” Those conversations included “lessons learned behind barbed wire and enemy lines.”

One of the speakers, Annette Bechtold of OneDigital, a benefits consulting firm, talked about how colleagues can look within to find the strength to deal with adversity.

— Read Health Agents Fight Single-Payer Storm With Tornadoon ThinkAdvisor.

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