A bipartisan bill introduced by Congressmen John Barrow (GA-12) and Mike Rogers (MI-8) to amend the new health care law to protect jobs and consumer access to licensed insurance agents and brokers has reached 100 co-sponsors in the House. The bill also recently received the endorsement of a key National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) task force. NAIC represents the nation's insurance commissioners, the non-partisan experts on state insurance markets.
"I'm pleased that so many colleagues have decided to join Mike and me to see that this flaw in the new health care law is corrected," said Congressman Barrow. "Insurance agents and brokers serve as the voice of health insurance for millions of families and small businesses in rural communities. These folks can help explain to consumers the many changes taking place in the healthcare world over the next few years, and it's important that our insurance agents are not hampered by provisions in the new health care law."
"More and more members of Congress on both sides of the aisle understand the essential role that the 500,000 insurance brokers and agents play in providing health care services," said Rogers, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. "A mandate in the new health care law creates major limitations on their ability to offer their services, costing small businesses jobs and severely decreasing the availability of their valuable services to employers and consumers."
State consumer protection and tax laws require that insurance agents and brokers be paid through commissions included as part of consumers' regular insurance premiums. The new healthcare law now classifies commissions as an "administration expense." By itself, this reclassification would not pose a problem, except that a new regulation in the law -- called The Medical Loss Ratio -- mandates that insurers may only spend 20 percent of insurance premiums on administrative expenses. The result has been insurers dramatically cutting commissions to agents and brokers in order to comply with the Medical Loss Ratio mandate, which is causing job losses in the industry and restricting the ability of rural consumers from accessing healthcare advice from qualified, licensed healthcare professionals.
This legislation builds on Congressman Barrow's committment to improving the new healthcare law. Earlier this year, Barrow voted to repeal the 1099 reporting requirements for small businesses included in the Affordable Care Act. The 1099 provision requires businesses to send the IRS a form detailing every business entity they pay $600 or more for goods or merchandise in every year. This requirement greatly increases the cost and complexity of complying with the tax code for small businesses and does nothing to improve the healthcare people receive.