When members of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) visited Washington for the organization’s annual Congressional Conference, they brought their stories of how pending legislation and regulation will affect their clients back home on Main Street.
About 700 members representing all 50 states traveled to the Capitol this week for the annual event. The three main topics NAIFA members discussed with their senators and representatives were the Department of Labor fiduciary rule, health care reform and tax reform.
NAIFA members “are feeling the pressure in their businesses waiting for regulations or massive changes in legislative initiatives that will impact their businesses,” said Diane Boyle, NAIFA senior vice president of government relations. “We need their stories to be told. We need them to tell their representatives what these changes mean to the neighbor and the constituent that everyone knows back home.”
The first day of the Congressional Conference happened to be the day in which Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced he will not delay the controversial fiduciary rule any further. The applicability date for the rule is June 9. Acosta’s announcement led to a pivot where NAIFA members were concerned.
“In one of our talking points with lawmakers, we had asked for a full delay of the rule,” Boyle said. “We had to shift quickly and make everyone aware that we would ask for revisions as we go forth.”
NAIFA members were frustrated and concerned over Acosta’s announcement, Boyle said, but that reaction was tempered by the understanding “that a decision had been made and they had to move through it.”
“Advocacy is not a short race – it’s a combination between a marathon and a relay race,” she said. “We have to circle the track many times. There was disappointment but not a sense that the world would collapse.”
Boyle said the NAIFA conference attendees understand that the fiduciary rule is similar to health care reform in that “once you allow something to go into effect, it’s incredibly difficult to unwind."
“Now that we have this applicability date, the financial institutions will have to start complying and they are spending resources to comply with something they know will change,” she said. “At what point do they stop? I think we’ll see a variety of choices being made. Some will back off, some will move forward, some will pull out. All of that is not positive for the industry."
Health care reform
House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act earlier this month and the Senate is crafting its own version of health care reform. Here is where NAIFA members had an opportunity to tell stories of how health care reform has affected those they serve back home.
“NAIFA has a list of what we consider principles in health care reform that we believe need to be included in any new health care bill,” Boyle said. “But the list is too lengthy to cover in a 15-minute meeting with a senator. So what we recommended was for our members to go in and share a story of what they were seeing in their home town. Tell what is the most difficult challenge you face in working with consumers to get them coverage. Is it the cost? Is it the carriers pulling out of the market? What is it in your local situation that is causing the most grief? Personalize it and then refer the lawmaker to the recommended principles.”
In addition to citing NAIFA’s principles regarding health care reform, Boyle said members told lawmakers that health care “isn’t a situation where you can simply punt and let it go away.”
“Our members are out there talking to the consumers and we don’t want health care to implode,” she said. “We’re sharing the concern that the challenges are real – not just on paper – and telling people let’s do something and move in the right direction. Asking lawmakers, can you make the effort to move forward and make a better policy?”
As in previous congressional visits, NAIFA members discussed the current tax treatment of financial products, Boyle said. One concern, however, is the fate of the proposed border adjustment tax that would raise about $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. “What happens with the BAT if that doesn’t go through – where do we go?” she asked. “It’s the old concern we have had since Day One – if you’re looking for revenue, do we find we are a target?”
“We want to make sure there is an understanding of why the tax treatment of our products is in place, why it’s important to make sure consumers have risk-protection products,” she added.
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected].