A new venue, a new House Speaker and some new concerns will greet agents and brokers at the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America Legislative Conference and Convention next week in Washington, D.C.

At the conference, agents will hear from IIABA leaders about the most-pressing legislative issues facing independent agents and will learn how they should share their concerns and perspectives with the lawmakers they visit—and hope to influence—during the course of the conference.

At the top of the list of key issues is fighting for an exemption of agents’ commissions from the medical-loss-ratio calculations (MLRs) that healthcare companies are mandated to meet under the healthcare reform act.

Conference attendees will be asked to push for passage of the “Access to Professional Health Insurance Advisors Act of 2011,” introduced on March 17, which would clarify that agent compensation is not part of the medical-loss-ratios formula as enacted in the healthcare overhaul law.

Robert A. Rusbuldt, IIABA’S president and CEO, notes that another important piece of pending legislation has received bipartisan support in the past, and it is hoped that during this session of Congress it will actually be adopted: NARAB II has passed the House twice before, and on March 11, the bill was again introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), and upward of 45 original co-sponsors.

NARAB II would provide for streamlined non-resident insurance agent and broker licensing while preserving state insurance regulation and consumer protections. This legislation, according to IIABA, would achieve much needed reciprocity in producer licensing and help policyholders by permitting greater competition among NARAB members. 

“NARAB II provides a mechanism for establishing true non-resident licensing reciprocity for the tens of thousands of [our] members who operate on a multistate basis,” says Rusbuldt, who adds there is optimism that with passage again in the House, the bill will finally pass in the Senate. The Obama administration has not yet taken a position.

Also sure to get a lot of attention at the conference is the National Flood Insurance Program, which needs real and vital reform to stop the disruptions in authorization it has experienced over the past several years, Rusbuldt says.

The conference is also going to try to rally support for continuing the state-based regulation of insurance, but with more efficiency between all the states.

Political Power Players

The conference, now taking place at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel just blocks from Capitol Hill, will feature appearances by a number of congressional heavyweights.

The Thursday, April 14 agenda will begin with a big bang of bold-faced names: the legislative breakfast featuring Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana).

One of the kick-off events on April 13 is the Young Agents & InsurPac State Chairpersons Legislative luncheon, where Rep. Heath Schuler (D-N.C.), a Blue Dog Democrat, will address the group. Schuler, who serves on the House Budget Committee, famously challenged former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for the Democratic leadership position in the House.

The conference’s final day will feature the general-session breakfast, where Mike Miley, IIABA’s chairman, will share with agents his perspective on the association’s accomplishments, current direction and vision for the future.