WASHINGTON, D.C., June 10, 2009 – The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA or the Big “I”) today announced its opposition to a bill titled “the Affordable Health Choices Act” as introduced by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.
“The Big ‘I’ supports efforts to provide universal health care coverage and to lower health insurance costs across the board, however the current form of this bill is not the solution,” says Robert Rusbuldt, Big “I” president & CEO. “There is no doubt that our country must take drastic steps to reform the problems in the health care system and to lower costs. We look forward to working with Congress and the Obama administration to find ways to fix the problems permanently without displacing the private market or adding to an already ballooning federal budget deficit.”
While briefly noted in the bill without specific details, Chairman Kennedy has expressed his strong support for including a Medicare-like public plan and a "pay or play" employer mandate in the final bill. As such, the Big "I" will oppose any effort to implement a public plan and an unreasonable employer mandate. A public plan would be unfairly matched against private plans and according to a 2009 Lewin Group Study, if the public plan’s reimbursement rates are similar to Medicare, an estimated 119 million people will shift from private insurance to the public plan. Within years, private insurers could be driven out of business and a “Single Payer System” will evolve. Moreover, an improperly constructed employer mandate could have a devastating impact on main street businesses that would be saddled with a significant economic burden.
“Far too many Americans, 47 million by most estimates, were uninsured this past year,” says Charles Symington, Big “I” senior vice president of government affairs. “Furthermore, the cost of health insurance is on an unsustainable upward path, with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) projecting that health care spending will total $2.5 trillion this year and increase to $4.4 trillion by 2018. Something needs to be done soon, but this bill is not the answer and unfortunately doesn’t even address the ‘$64,000 question’: how to pay for the cost of enacting the healthcare reforms.”
The Big ‘I’ is also opposed to the creation of the "Navigators" grant program included in the legislation. This new program would award grants to public and private entities to conduct public education, distribute information, and assist with health insurance enrollment. The legislation specifically states that health insurance issuers, including agents, would be prohibited from participating in the grant program.
“A ‘Navigators’ program would mistakenly entrust organizations with no prior health insurance background with the authority to advise individuals on their insurance decisions and would cut experienced and educated agents out of the process of boosting health insurance enrollment,” continues Symington. “Individuals seeking information on what health insurance plan best fits their needs should be able to count on sound advice from a licensed health insurance agent, broker or consultant. It is simply reckless to hand this trusted role over to random community organizations with no relevant health care background.”
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.