WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 30 - The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) is praising President Bush for calling for tax and legal liability reforms during his State of the Union address to Congress this week, says IIABA CEO Robert A. Rusbuldt.
In his remarks, the President called for tax relief that “will improve the bottom line for more than 23 million small businesses” and medical liability reform that will end “the constant threat that physicians and hospitals will be unfairly sued.”
The 300,000-member association will continue its proactive lobbying and grassroots efforts on Capitol Hill to ensure that Congress makes permanent and effective this year income-tax reductions approved for 2004 and 2006, and reforms an inherently inefficient civil justice system that ultimately hurts both patients and doctors.
“The President made it distinctly clear that he is committed to helping small businesses and workers’ paychecks grow in order to boost the economy,” says Rusbuldt. “IIABA supports the President’s efforts to make permanent the tax cuts enacted in 2000 through the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, including its lower tax brackets and other pro-growth provisions that will benefit millions of American business owners, workers and families.”
IIABA continues to support additional tax provisions to help small business, such as liberalized expensing and accelerated depreciation. The Big “I” also is pressing ahead on an agent-specific tax issue that would allow owners to write off intangible assets over five years instead of the current 15-year timetable.
Legal reform is expected to be a hotly debated topic in the new Congress, and the President set the stage for an end to the medical malpractice crisis in America by calling for medical liability reform. “Because of excessive litigation, everybody pays more for health care, and many parts of America are losing fine doctors. No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit,” the President stated.
Double-digit increases in medical malpractice insurance premiums are prompting doctors to flee states with the highest rates, refuse to perform high-risk procedures or retire early out of frustration. IIABA and coalition partners are seeking enactment of legislation similar to that championed by Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.) during the last Congress: the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low Cost, Timely Health Care (HEALTH) Act. The bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate last year.
“Unwarranted lawsuits are crippling the delivery of health care in America and rapidly driving up health insurance costs,” explains IIABA Senior Vice President of Federal Government Affairs Maria L. Berthoud.
“Premium increases are triggered by the exorbitant legal fees necessary to defend frivolous lawsuits. This causes many people to lose their health insurance coverage and forces employers to discontinue coverage.
“IIABA backs an expedited external appeals process to settle patient disputes quickly without burdening the health care system with these unnecessary additional costs that are being passed on to consumers,” adds Berthoud.
IIABA also is dedicated to resolving another liability issue—the mounting asbestos litigation crisis that is hurting not only companies being sued but also other businesses, governments, communities and individuals. “With no uniform standard to distinguish sick claimants from those who are not sick, the onslaught of claims filed by those who are not sick is wiping out the resources of otherwise financially secure companies,” notes Rusbuldt.
A recent study prepared by NERA Economic Consulting reveals that more than 60 companies have filed for bankruptcy because of asbestos claims, putting some 60,000 employees out of work. “Unless the system is changed, resources to pay future claims to the sick may not be available,” Rusbuldt says. “Even the Supreme Court is telling Congress to take responsibility now by passing asbestos legislation that ensures those truly deserving of financial assistance get it now, while those who are not sick do not siphon off scarce resources.”
Berthoud concludes, “Our member agents and brokers see these tax and liability issues as priorities in the 108th Congress. IIABA will work with both the White House and Congress in the coming weeks and months to ensure these common-sense yet critical reforms are enacted.”
Founded in 1896, IIABA is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life and health—as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com.