On July 15, 2009 over 1,000 insurance agents from several professional associations convened in Washington D.C. with one purpose in mind – to tell Congress that a public plan for healthcare is an irresponsible move. Agents from several organizations, including N.A.H.U, N.A.I.F.A/AHIP, IIACT, and more) volunteered to fly in for one day and bring that message to over 400 members of Congress, and to also build bridges of unity among the organizations that fight for a common cause – to keep the health insurance industry in private hands.
Five FWAHU members attended the event – Tonya Booth, John Merrifield, Sharon Alt, Don Duke and Kasey Buckner. Together with over 60 other Texas agents they visited with key committee members and Blue Dog Democrats at the Capitol to get a foothold in the fight to keep health care and health insurance from going public. And a tough fight it is.
Currently the House is considering a bill (HB 3200) that will irreversibly change our industry, shackle the next three generations with more debt, cost over $1 Trillion dollars, and still leave over 1/3 of the current uninsured without coverage. Yes, it’s that bad.
The shape of the argument has evolved over the years. What was once a “national vs. private health care system” debate has now morphed into an argument over the cost of such change. With the current makeup of Congress, some sort of national system is thought to be the norm – a long overdue right to the American public. So the argument of keeping the system private has lost its luster. The only foothold our industry has to wrangle this bill away is to attack it from a fiscal standpoint.
Many moderate democrats are now seeing the fallacy of such an expensive proposal. And, seeing their constituents’ possible response, are taking another look at things. This is the area in which we must concentrate our efforts. We must help these lawmakers realize the fallacy and fiscal irresponsibility of this bill.
Assuming this tactic works, and the bill fails, we are not yet going to be out of the woods. But it will give us some breathing room between now and the mid-term elections next year. During that time it will be imperative that our industry focuses its efforts to designing a workable plan that keeps health care and health insurance in the free-market system. It will be no easy task, but it will be necessary. Because where this bill might fail, the next bill for a public plan won’t.
It is all the more imperative that each FWAHU member gets involved by contacting their elected officials. If you are unsure how to do that, refer to the “How can I affect Legislation” paper on the FWAHU website in the Legislation section. There you will find out how much your voice matters, and how much it is needed!
-Kasey Buckner, FWAHU Legislative Chair