Capitol Conference 2015: Three Perspectives
Cathy Little, GGAHU Secretary
I was a first time attendee at Capitol Conference 2015 and it was also my first time ever visiting Washington, DC. The theme of this 3-day event was "Stand Up and Be Heard". I now have a fuller appreciation and understanding of just how much NAHU works to advocate for agents and brokers, as well as for the health insurance consumer.
The agenda covered a broad spectrum of priorities which NAHU will champion at the Federal policy level in 2015 including H.R. 815, legislation which removes broker commissions from the MLR calculation in the health reform law. NAHU also outlined specific recommendations and solutions to help address some of the current challenges with the law that are discouraging to businesses. For example, we support legislation that would broaden age bands from what the law currently requires (3:1) because prices have gone up significantly for many individual consumers and will impact employer-sponsored plans at the end of this year when grandmothered plans expire. There was also a great deal of focus on the topic of medical care price transparency and provider payment reform.
The visits with our legislators were a highlight of the conference. "Boots on the ground", our conversation started by describing the role of brokers, how we are the largest distribution channel for insurers as well as the marketplace exchange, and we provided specific examples of how brokers are making a difference in helping consumers and employers secure affordable health insurance. We also talked about cost containment and gave specific examples of how the ACA is impacting the insurance premiums of small business owners and individual employee/family premiums. The legislators we met with were very receptive to our message.
Overall my experience was very positive and I was proud to represent our local chapter, GGAHU, at the national level.
Colleen Callahan, GGAHU Legislative Chair
It was cold! But the conference was well worth it. Thanks so much to those that attended from Golden Gate: Jon Bone, Hazel Bright, Patrick Burns, Rick Coburn, Linda Rose Koehler, Phil Lee, Cathy Little and Kathy Luna.
We had a great meeting with Representative Eric Swalwell. He has been kind enough to meet with us in person for three years running. We also had productive meetings with staff members from Representatives Mark DeSaulnier and Jackie Speier.
The hill visits were intended to discuss the role of the agent and ask for support for HR815 (removing the agent's commission from the MLR) and HR30 (asking for a traditional 40 hour work week - which does not impact California). There were also some talking points about needing to contain costs. In fact, there was a great presentation at the conference related to cost and the lack of transparency.
As usual, we had wonderful speakers and content at the conference. One particularly lively guest was South Carolina Senator and former insurance agent Tim Scott. He had a very clear understanding of the issues the agent faces in business and as a result of the big changes our industry is facing.
Mark Guanya, Chair of NAHU's Working Group Taskforce on Transparency, told agents that we have to disrupt what we are doing as agents or we will be disrupted. It was a very pointed statement. In essence, the health insurance agencies of the future will look differently, we just need to figure out exactly what that means. We will need to increase our focus on social media, dealing with the buying styles of generations that are very different from the aging baby boomers. It is definitely a time of change.
Kathy Luna, GGAHU Member
The opportunity to attend the Capital Conference in Washington DC as a first time attendee was a wonderful experience. It was both enlightening and educational to hear speakers at the General Session discuss such issues as "The Future of Healthcare", "The Direction of Health Reform" and "King v Burwell - The Implications for the Marketplace". The breakout sessions also provided excellent information including topics on "The Employer Mandate", "Reporting Track" and "Containing Health Care Costs".
The meetings with our representatives were both an honor and a privilege. Members from GGAHU met with Mark DeSaulnier's Legislative Assistant Emlyn Struthers. We discussed H.R. 815 legislation which removes broker commissions from the MLR calculations in the health reform law. Emily seemed very receptive to our concerns. We also offered to help Congressman DeSaulnier's office with regards to insurance issues constituents may encounter. GGAHU members also met with Congressman Eric Swalwell and discussed HR 815. The Congressman seemed genuinely interested as we shared our concerns.
The chance to attend my first Capital Conference gave me the chance to see the commitment to healthcare we all share at a national level. There are so many things that need to be accomplished in the area of healthcare and through discussions and compromises I believe we can succeed if we continue to come together with one voice. The dedicated professionals that work tirelessly on behalf of NAHU are to be commended for their dedication and commitment. The success of Capital Conference is testimony to this commitment.