A glass-half-full crowd of benefits brokers and agents – that could be the theme of this year’s National Association of Health Underwriters Capitol Conference. The organization concluded its three day lobbying stint Wednesday with a morning of discussion panels on health reform, remarks from a Republican congresswoman, a talk with a representative from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and an address from NAHU’s president.

Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), vice chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, received a warm welcome, clearly having done her homework with discussions of the MLR and age band ratio issues. “I don’t agree with the president on that,” Blackburn said in reference to the White House’s goal of what she says is “sucking profit out of health care.”

Blackburn commended the crowd on their advocacy efforts and said the MLR ratio requirements are the wrong approach for consumers and for them. She says she will continue to support the MLR bill and that her committee will continue to focus on the issue this year. Blackburn also mentioned that NAHU is working on updating the bill.

“I hope we can reverse some of the damage that has been done to your livelihoods,” she said. “Both Republicans and Democrats share the goal of lowering costs … Obamacare has escalated the costs, not lowered them.” And to that, she received another round of applause.

Meanwhile, panelist John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority, said “Our top priority [right now] is getting everybody re-educated and ready for next year. … Our membership still has a lot of work to do with the state and federal exchanges.” Arensmeyer, participating in a panel called, “What will employers do?” echoed the sentiment of attendees and fellow panelists of commerce and retail associations that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but it’s here to stay.

“My friends, we will get it,” said NAHU president Bruce Benton in another speech given Wednesday morning. “In this new world of transformation, we’re obviously not going door-to-door anymore collecting monthly premiums for debit insurance, but I’m not sure portals will ever be a substitute for the eyeball-to-eyeball approach of what we do.” 

“My meetings with congressmen turned into a big thank you-fest,” said Gene Ramsay, a first-time conference attendee from Birmingham, Ala., in the hallway of the hotel before heading out for more legislator meetings Wednesday. Thank you for what? For being there to support each other when overturning health reform didn’t work, Ramsay said. 

Benton concluded: “For over 30 years in this business I’ve always heard people tell me the sky is falling and apparently it hasn’t because we’re all still here. We always find a way to adjust to change.”

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