Even though legislation intended to ease the pain of broker commission cuts due to the Affordable Care Act’s medical-loss ratio changes has flopped on Capitol Hill, the National Association of Health Underwriters’ CEO said Monday that their lobbying efforts on the matter have elevated the benefit broker and agent image in Washington.

Speaking at the group’s annual convention in Scottsdale, Ariz., Janet Trautwein said she is more proud of their work on the MLR bill than any other legislation or regulatory changes they were able to advance in the last year, including a bill that passed the House to change the definition of a full-time employee under the ACA.

See related: Bill bumping ACA to 40-hour work week passes House

“Because [the MLR bill] had so many co-sponsors, it got attention in the media, television and in [Capitol Hill] hearings,” she told the crowd of about 700 health insurance professionals, a count provided in a statement from the organization. “One of the biggest accomplishments is that they know you aren’t an unnecessary middle man anymore. In fact, both Republicans and Democrats have pushed for improvements” for brokers and agents’ work and compensation and “readily acknowledge” your importance.

The MLR provision in the ACA says that 85% of large group premiums must go to benefits, leaving 15% for administrative costs and 80% of individual and small group premiums must go to benefits, leaving 20% for administrative costs. With broker compensation being included in the administrative section, industry lobbyists and analyses have said brokers are “bleeding” money, according to previous EBA reports.

Trautwein flagged that during a recent Senate approval hearing for Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who has since assumed the role of secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) each separately asked Burwell to revisit the MLR rule as it relates to the broker community.

See related: Burwell approved as new HHS chief to lead ACA

“We’ve made this achievement on both sides of the aisle,” she said. “They know who you are.”

Political analysis

A former Republican governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, also addressed the crowd Monday, focusing on issues with the ACA and the potential outcomes of the 2014 election. He said he thinks Republicans have a slightly higher chance of taking over the Senate majority than the Democrats have in keeping it. He believes the House will remain in Republican control.

The ACA will be one of the top issues for congressional races in 2014 and Barbour highlighted a few of his top concerns to the NAHU audience.

“We have to be sure that this Obamacare isn’t a bridge to a total single-payer option,” the former governor said to a round of applause at the event. He empowered brokers and agents to use their voices to ensure this policy won’t come to fruition, despite several comments he cited by President Barack Obama and his allies that this may be their intention.

Barbour also reflected on the 2014 public health insurance exchange open-enrollment period.

“The president tweeted about 8.1 million people” getting covered, but “what he forgot to tweet was that 74% of them had health insurance before,” Barbour stated to more applause from NAHU members.

Barbour also encouraged brokers and agents to understand the federal budget in detail as it relates to health care spending so that they can inform their clients and consumers about how much money is going into the ACA effort for only “800,000 people who are both paying [premiums] and didn’t have health insurance before.”

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