BIG “I” SUPPORTS HOUSE PASSAGE OF AGRICULTURE APPROPS BILL
Provision prohibiting funding for “Premium Reduction Plans” passes as part of legislation
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 24, 2006—The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”) praised the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the 2007 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which includes an important provision to maintain a viable crop insurance program for family farms. The House signed off on the prohibition of Premium Reduction Plan (PRP) funding in passing the bill, sponsored by Chairman Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), late Tuesday night.
With a grassroots effort that contacted almost every House office, the Big “I” led the charge against a late amendment to the bill that would have, in effect, nullified the PRP prohibition in the legislation. At the last minute, the amendment was withdrawn, and the PRP funding limitation remained in place upon final passage.
The Big “I” has sought the defunding of this program because of various issues with PRPs that are contrary to the best interest of consumers. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) has published an interim rule allowing providers to give rebates to their customers, a provision at odds with the laws of 48 states—an unprecedented departure from longstanding Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP) regulations prohibiting rebating.
“This is great news, and we are very pleased that the House passed this legislation keeping the funding moratorium in place,” said Robert Fulwider, Big “I” national Executive Committee officer, principal and president of the Ray Wuestenberg Agency Inc. in West Liberty, Iowa, and principal and president of the Fulwider Agency Inc. in West Branch, Iowa. “It is important that this bill provides a two-year timeframe which will allow the Risk Management Agency the time it needs to develop a more equitable discount program for farmers who utilize crop insurance in their financial planning.”
“It’s terrific to see this crucial language for farmers and our members take another step forward,” says Charles E. Symington Jr., Big “I” senior vice president for government affairs and federal relations. “Rebating through PRPs is a terrible idea that would lead insurance providers to focus on shortcuts rather than providing quality service for farmers. We thank Chairman Bonilla and his colleagues in the House for passing this bill. We also appreciate the hard work of Congressman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and many others, who along with Chairman Bonilla were instrumental in blocking the PRP amendment.”
In addition to the inherent problem of cutting service to farmers, there is also the problem that the PRP rebating scheme allows for rebates to be offered to farmers in some states but not in others. The existing FCIP does not allow discrimination in favor of farmers in one state over farmers in another state, but the PRP scheme would violate that principle.
“Crop insurance provides a plethora of complicated options to farmers, and the PRP program would deprive farmers of the advice they need to navigate this complex system,” says John Prible, Big “I” assistant vice president of federal government affairs. “We applaud the House for its action, and we look forward to working with the Senate on it soon.”
The Big “I” last year supported defunding of PRPs via the Kingston-Boyd provision, effective on July 1, 2006, the start of the 2007 reinsurance year. That provision did not interfere with the 2006 reinsurance year, which ends June 30, 2006, thus guaranteeing that no farmers will have to worry about previously purchased coverage.
Founded in 1896, IIABA (the Big “I”) 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.