NAIFA President John Nichols submitted the following letter to the editors of LifeHealthPro:
Alan Canton’s recent opinion column published on the LifeHealthPro website creates an unfair distortion of insurance professionals. The people Mr. Canton describes in his broadside against critics of the Affordable Care Act do not resemble the many NAIFA members whom I have come to know well during my nearly 30 years as a member.
Mr. Canton paints with a very broad brush and still manages to miss the mark. Stereotyping agents and brokers as universally white, male, far-right conservatives intent on sabotaging the ACA is inaccurate. Equating them to pro-segregation bigots is outrageous.
NAIFA members come from communities all over the country and from various social, ethnic and religious backgrounds. They include Democrats, Republicans and independents. The Affordable Care Act and its emanating regulations are complex, filling thousands of pages. There are as many opinions about the law and its numerous provisions as there are NAIFA members.
The agents I know are hard-working professionals dedicated to helping American families protect their financial security. As I write this, many of them are helping individuals and small business owners understand and make the best of the myriad changes the ACA has brought to the American health care system, whether they agree with the law or not.
They include my colleague Juli McNeeely, an exceptional woman and capable leader who next September will become my successor as NAIFA president.
They include Marcus Newman, an agent in my home state of Illinois who has been sitting down with clients since the health care marketplaces opened to ease their anxiety and help them understand various options as they compare plans both on and off the ACA exchange.
They are people like Mercy Cabrera, a health broker recently profiled in the Miami Herald for her work reaching out within working-class Hispanic communities to help people understand the ACA and obtain coverage.
It is because of colleagues like these that I am exceptionally proud to be a NAIFA member.
They are true professionals. And yes, they receive compensation for their work, as I suspect Mr. Canton does for his. While many of the NAIFA members I know are very charitable people, it would be ridiculous to expect them to operate as a charity. Like anyone else, they have mortgages to pay and families to support.
Fair compensation will allow agents to help consumers choose the right plan on the front end, provide claims assistance on the back end, and conduct ongoing evaluations of their health care needs and coverage options throughout the year.
This is why NAIFA continues to seek changes to the medical loss ratio provision of the ACA and other measures that we see unfairly impacting agent compensation. Our surveys indicate that the MLR has already caused some agents and brokers to reduce staff and scale back services to clients. NAIFA will continue to work with Congress and the administration to change parts of the ACA or its implementation that harm agents and consumers.
As NAIFA president, I regularly ask our members why they got started in the insurance industry. I don’t recall a single person telling me that they did it to get rich. Conversely, many NAIFA members say they got into the business to serve people. NAIFA members care so much about protecting the financial security of American families that they have chosen to make it their life’s work. Mr. Canton makes it sound like insurance professionals should be ashamed. They should not. Our profession is a noble calling.
Finally, Mr. Canton writes about being “on the wrong side of history.” NAIFA has a 125-year history of helping our members achieve professional growth and knowledge so they can help Americans achieve financial protection and security for years to come. NAIFA’s mission has stood the test of time.
I have no doubt that, historically, agents and brokers have been on the side of American families. Insurance products for over a hundred years have provided financial security. They have ensured access to affordable health care. Agents have given comfort and service to people and families in need. If history is to judge the role of the agent, I cannot imagine how that judgment will be anything but a positive one.