You might’ve seen a recent post on our social media about our CEO Greg Seifert’s February trip to an annual legislative conference organized by the National Association of Health Underwriters. A lot of our clients seemed excited and interested in hearing more about the proceedings he’d been a part of, so our team member Zoe sat down with Greg to discuss.
Z: Information that’s out there about this conference suggests a twofold intent: to both engage in constructive dialogue with policymakers – hearing their proposed bills, suggesting your own solutions – and to attend educational sessions about benefit and policy trends. Tell me more about each of those.
G: The conference starts officially on Monday morning with all-day educational sessions – industry speakers, legislators, and administrative people from the government will all come in to speak; and they’re addressing the topics we want to cover with our elected representatives. So if we’re discussing a bill relating to Medicare, someone in the know about that bill will tell us what the issue is, what their position is, why that’s their position and why it’s important, and that helps us be prepared to discuss that bill when we go on the Hill.
Sometimes these speakers will also talk about their relationship with our industry – how they know who we are and what we do, and their understanding of why brokers are important. One of our main messages on the Hill is always to discuss with our elected representatives the role of the insurance agent/broker/adviser, because in many cases, they’ve never even had a relationship or an experience with a broker since they get their benefits from the government; so they have a distinct lack of understanding of the value we bring to the equation. So that’s a big component of our goals there – explaining how we understand the marketplace and how we understand the struggles of the insurance-buying consumer (and the health insurance arena in particular).
So – all day Monday is basically several breakout sessions for education. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday, in the mornings we have more meetings with speakers and further discussion of topics that are important to us and are important in the scheme of things, such as changes to the ACA, CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services), or maybe even ERISA-related issues. Then in the afternoon on Tue/Wed, we basically go to the Hill – which is right nearby the conference hotel, the Hyatt on Capitol Hill; we’re like a block from the Capitol – where we have appointments scheduled with our representatives.
Z: Do you feel there was a true back-and-forth with some of these sessions? You felt listened to, you felt like some of the suggestions being made were taken into account?
G: It varies based on the office. Sometimes the issues are very partisan, and you’ll find that if it’s partisan Republican, often your reception in the Democratic offices is less than warm, and vice versa. However this year we found that there was quite a bit of bipartisan work going on within Congress, and I felt that attitudes were fairly friendly on both sides of the isle, which hasn’t always been the case. So I think that our message was well-received, and I think generally, when we were meeting with our representatives or with their aides, they were willing to hear what we had to say and we had some good dialogue.
It’s also worth noting that Patti Murray, one of our Senators here in WA, was working with Lamar Alexander from Tennessee on a bipartisan Senate bill which I think has a lot to do with our influence.
Z: Yeah, how awesome to have a sense that your actions had a direct effect! On the flip side, was there any component of the conference you wish had gone differently?
G: We had difficulty getting into some of the offices this year from our state delegation, because we have ten House representatives and two Senators and we were unable to make appointments with everybody, so our access as a state delegation wasn’t as good as it might’ve been.
Z: What was your favorite moment from the trip?
G: My favorite moment was going on a bicycle tour of the monuments at about 10:00pm on Monday after we’d gone out to dinner.
We were able to take someone in our group who’d never been there and show them some of the monuments that look especially cool at night. It was really fun.
Z: And is there anything else that you want clients of Biggs who are reading this to know?
G: My message for our clients would be to speak up! If you have concerns and maybe you’re not sure how to address them, you can ask me – but in either event, talk to our elected representatives if you have opinions on anything business-related but health insurance in particular, as well as regulations having to do with social security, Medicare, etc. It’s important to make your voice heard, as our legislators are very interested in hearing stories as to what’s really happening in their districts. When I show up, I’m sometimes seen as “just” a professional, and I have to build a case for why I’m representing my customer’s best interests; but my views are often still taken with a grain of salt. The best person to have that conversation is the actual person with the story. Still, I always want to hear things that I can take back and share, so feel free to reach out to me as well.
If you want to get in touch with Greg, you can find his contact information on our Team page!