A gradual shift away from concern over broker issues with the Affordable Care Act may be starting this spring.

At a legislative conference in Washington for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, known as the Big “I,” two legislators from both sides of the aisle addressed the crowd about what needs to be done in Washington. Neither mentioned the ACA once. The meeting took place Thursday morning before the agents began a day of conversations with legislators on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who serves as the U.S. House of Representatives’ majority whip, told the crowd “we will get TRIA [Terrorism Risk Insurance Act] done, hell or high water” when discussing pending insurance legislation. He also said about NARAB II, the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers, “it passed the House it passed the Senate … we’ll get it done, just not as fast as I want it to.” McCarthy didn’t provide detail about his plans for passage of both of these items. He did encourage the agents, in their discussions with their congressmen, to emphasize the need for “stability” when lobbying on the issues.

‘Cautiously optimistic’

TRIA was initially passed in 2002 to ensure that insurance carriers can continue to issue policies and accept claims, with a backstop of federal funding, following an act of terrorism. The current bill is set to expire in December and while reauthorization was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, it has not been filed in the House yet.

While the agents find TRIA important — they clapped after McCarthy said it will get done — NARAB has more potential to change their daily lives. The bill would create an organization to streamline state-by-state agent and broker licensing across state lines, allowing any member of the group to be registered in all 50 states. While it passed the Senate as an attachment to the flood insurance bill in January, it was dropped from the House’s version when they passed it in early March, despite a standalone NARAB bill passing that chamber last year. President Barack Obama signed the flood insurance bill into law without NARAB in late March.

Big “I,” which has supported and lobbied for the new registration organization for several years, is hopeful NARAB may be attached to TRIA by House legislators and eventually passed. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), NARAB’s sponsor in that chamber, told Big “I” attendees on Wednesday in a session closed to the media that he also wants to try to attach NARAB to TRIA in the Senate.

“There are not commitments yet but they understand our desire that it be added” in both chambers, says Charles Symington, senior vice president of government affairs at the Big “I.” “We’re cautiously optimistic that at some point in the process, maybe not right out of the gate with these TRIA bills, but at some point in the process, NARAB II could be added.” He notes that it’s one of the more important issues for the group in 2014 considering “not much is going to get done in this Congress on the ACA.”

Bob Rusbuldt, president and CEO of the Big “I” explains that every time the House passes a “true reform” of the ACA — like last week’s move to modify the work week to 40 hours from 30 —“it’s not going anywhere in the Senate.”

Symington says the “big ask” from their members right now is for TRIA and NARAB, and if possible, for them to get passed together.

The other legislator speaking to the group Thursday morning talked about the importance of passing TRIA and a longer-term flood insurance bill. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who serves as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also left out any discussion of the ACA, but did not mention NARAB. Israel has sponsored the various versions on NARAB in the House.

Israel focused his other remarks on talking about the future to the crowd of agents, brokers and advisers. The National Intelligence Council publishes a report every few years for U.S. leaders that outlines their predictions for what the world will look like about 17 years in the future, he said. The most recent one he read found that in 2030:

  • There will be  millions more people added to the middle class in places like China, India and Brazil but that the U.S.’s middle class is at risk,
  • The elderly population is going to grow to the largest size it has ever been in the history of the world,
  • And 60% of the world’s population will live in cities at that point in the future, amongst other findings.

“This tells you everything you need to know about your business,” he said, once again focusing his discussion about advisers’ businesses on a topic other than the ACA.
Symington and Rusbuldt note they will support any ACA legislation that does get introduced this session and makes improvements for agents and brokers, like Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) two bills filed on March 27 enhancing brokers’ work on the Affordable Care Act’s public exchanges.

 

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