Piece Of The Puzzle

I have friends who enjoy the challenge of a good jigsaw puzzle.  They might spend entire weekends tackling a bucolic scene of 2,000 or more pieces.  Not me.  I am still haunted by the puzzle frustrations of my childhood.  No matter how careful I was, there would always be a piece missing!  That missing piece, perhaps in the lower right corner, wasn’t relevant until it was everything, the very definition of whether or not I had completed the puzzle.

I was recently in Washington DC as part of the National Association of Benefits and Insurance Professionals (NABIP) annual Capitol Conference.  As I have detailed in previous years, 500+ health insurance agents and industry employees gather in our nation’s capital to hear from the heads of the regulatory departments (think CMS), Congressmen, Senators, and thought leaders on the issues impacting us and our clients.  And, we then get the opportunity to meet with our elected representatives or their legislative aides in their offices.

I love wondering around the Halls of Congress.

Most of our attendees are very familiar with legislation pending in either the House or the Senate.  Some even know the players, who is championing a particular bill, or may be in opposition.  There is an entire process to the meetings in the Congressional offices.  The meetings are scheduled in advance.  Our talking points, the key issues we would like to discuss, are provided to their offices along with a list of which of our members will be attending.  And yes, we even include our attendees’ addresses so that the Congressman or staff will know if they will be meeting with a constituent.  Our meetings are an opportunity to put a face and a story to the issues and to explain the real-world consequences of their actions or inactions.

Due to the limitations of this Congress, our talking points were reduced to one page (front and back!), much less than previous years.  We limited our focus to pending legislation.   But we did have something else to discuss – the brand new NABIP American Healthcare Consumer Bill of Rights.  The key, at least in my opinion, begins with the idea that we are Consumers, not patients.  As consumers we are purchasing goods and services.  Our expectations are different when we identify as consumers.  Our focus isn’t simply about outcomes, but we should know that we have the right to access healthcare, that we will be respected, that the process will be transparent, and that we will be a part of the decision making process.  Does this fix all/any of our system’s flaws? No.  This is just another step in the right direction.  And if it helps my clients to better understand their place in the process, an active participant not just an end-user, then we will have accomplished something.

I led two delegations to Congressional offices this year.  We met with one staffer who, though relatively new in this particular office, had been on the Hill for almost a decade.  And we met with a bright young woman early in her career.  In both instances our members were able to help the Congressional staffer to see the individuals and small businesses impacted by the laws and regulations they helped to shape.  That is what seems to be missing, the human factor.  We are the last piece of the puzzle.  Insurance is the way most Americans access and pay for health care.  And insurance agents are the way the product is most effectively delivered.  We are also in the position to help regulators and Congress to course correct when the best of intentions lead in the wrong direction.

And that is why I’ll be in Columbus a few times this year and already look forward to next year’s Capitol Conference.



Picture – At The Top, Cannon Office Building 2024 – David L Cunix

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