Benefit adviser representatives were encouraged by recognition of their role in employee benefits delivery as exclusion of commissions from medical loss ratio calculations moved forward last week.

Passage of the Access to Professional Health Insurance Advisors Act, by a 26-14 vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday, protects broker revenue from the MLR provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Moreover, it shows that Congress understands “what our people do for a living. That’s pretty important and will serve us in a lot of ways,” says Janet Trautwein, CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters.

“The greatest achievement is that recognition, which is significantly greater than it was before,” Trautwein told Employee Benefit Adviser at NAHU headquarters in Washington. But while that recognition has grown, Trautwein cautions she and other members of the adviser community “still have our work cut out for us.” The bill is also supported by industry groups including the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

The bill now moves on to the full House, which on Friday recessed until after the November elections. Despite the possible loss of momentum, Trautwein remains optimistic the bill will pass during a lame-duck session of Congress, possibly by being tacked onto another bill.

Having cleared the rigors of Committee review, Trautwein believes the Act will easily pass a vote in the full House, where it enjoys bipartisan support and backing from 221 co-sponsors. 

Prospects for approval in the Senate remain uncertain, but Trautwein notes that the support so far represents a broad spectrum of Democrats and Republicans.

“It’s not just about [the] MLR,” she adds. “It’s about the role of the broker and I think this is a resounding endorsement.”

A companion bill to H.R. 1206 remains stalled in Senate committee. The Senate bill, led by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), carves out commissions for individuals and small groups from the MLR. 

“Should that bill advance, there would have to be some sort of reconciliation between the two bills,” observes Joel Kopperud, director of government relations for The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers.

“But movement in that chamber on anything that touches Obamacare — at least before the next Congress — does not look likely right now. It’s certainly not for lack of effort. But the national politics at the moment keep this on Harry Reid’s back burner.”

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