Insurance agents and brokers, afraid of being rendered irrelevant in the post-health reform world of simplified insurance shopping, are fighting for their very survival.
The agents want lawmakers' and regulators' support in getting the Obama administration to recognize their role in the federal insurance Web portal, which lets consumers compare coverage options online.
They've also been making their case to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which is tasked with ironing out the details of many of the insurance market reforms required by the healthcare law.
"This issue is important for insurance regulators because we know that [agents and brokers] provide a valuable service," said Illinois Insurance Director Michael McRaith, a prime sponsor of a resolution "to protect the ability of licensed insurance professionals to continue to serve the public."
The resolution was approved overwhelmingly — with one abstention — by the NAIC Tuesday at its annual meeting in Seattle. It had 25 sponsors.
An early draft of the resolution, obtained by Politico, addressed specific issues the agents and brokers hope to see resolved in their favor.
It called, for example, for "federal policymakers to review the definition of the Medical Loss Ratio to enable agents to continue to provide these services." Agents have asked for regulators to ignore their commissions when calculating the ratio – the percentage of premiums that must go to medical spending rather than administrative costs — mandated by the healthcare reform law, arguing that failing to do so could put them out of business.
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