/PRNewswire/ -- A proposal to award grants to public and private entities to conduct public education, distribute information and assist with health insurance enrollment is ill-advised, according to the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA).
The proposal is part of the Affordable Health Choices Act introduced by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.
Section 3105 of the Kennedy bill says American Health Benefit Gateways would be created in every state, serving as a health insurance exchange. A "Navigators" program would award grants to public and private entities to "conduct public education; distribute fair and impartial information regarding health plans; [and] assist with enrollment and provide information that is culturally and linguistically appropriate for the population." The bill stipulates that both health insurance issuers and current independent insurance agents would be prohibited from participating in the Navigators program.
"This proposal would give federal grants to groups with no background or expertise in health insurance the responsibility to advise businesses and individuals regarding their health insurance decisions," said PIA National President Kenneth R. Auerbach, Esq. "In addition, it would specifically exclude licensed health insurance agents or brokers from participating, which makes no sense at all."
"Consumers already turn to their local professional insurance agents to help them navigate the current maze of health insurance choices," Auerbach said. "There's no need to recreate that system. The Kennedy proposal would use taxpayers' dollars to set up what are, in essence, federal insurance agencies for health insurance in every state, with the proviso that those with health insurance experience would be barred from being involved."
Auerbach expressed concern that entities receiving grants to act as health insurance "Navigators" could be community groups, labor unions, or other organizations with no experience in health insurance and that might be biased in favor of a government-option in health insurance, with the potential to inappropriately steer people away from opting for private health insurance plans.
PIA believes that Congress should build on the private health care delivery system, not seek to dismantle it. PIA vehemently opposes the creation of government-funded insurance agencies or brokerages for health care insurance that would displace professional insurance agents.
"It is our hope that this flawed section of Sen. Kennedy's bill that creates federally-backed insurance brokerages with no expertise in health insurance will be removed as the legislative process continues," said PIA Director of Federal Affairs Mike Becker.
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