Thursday, February 2, 2017

2017 January/February Day on the Hill

NAIFA/WAHU Day On The Hill was held Thursday, January 26, 2017. Close to 100 producers from Health Underwriters and NAIFA met at the Double Tree Hotel in Olympia for a morning session. Mel Sorensen, our lobbyist extraordinaire, led the combined meeting of both professional associations.

Earlier in the morning, Mel and the two presidents, Neal Kloke of NAIFA and Keith Wallace of WAHU, testified before legislative panels on key topics important to our business.

We heard from; Michael Marchand, Director of Marketing for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange; John Mangan, Regional VP for the American Council of Life Insurers; Grace Campbell, of AHIP; and comments from Neal Kloke and Keith Wallace.

Michael Marchand acknowledged the positive role of brokers in increasing the participation and growth of the exchange.  It is a dubious acknowledgement, however.  Whether we agree with necessity of an exchange, we’ve certainly helped get more folks covered and at the same time I’ve spoken to a number of agents who are now charging fees to help folks with their decision making.  I don’t even focus on health insurance and I’m getting calls daily from people who were referred by the exchange.   I’m wondering why we need the exchange? (paragraph submitted by Richard Miller)

Before breaking for lunch and our own lobbying efforts on “the Hill” we discussed the talking points for the day. Some were pertinent to health insurance, some to life insurance:

  • Agents and brokers know the markets, know the applicable laws and regulations, are trained and certified by the OIC, know their clients and provide valuable service to the communities we serve
  • Oppose any legislation that would impose adverse tax impacts on licensed insurance producers or the insurance industry
    • The Business & Occupation Tax is equal to an income tax on producers with no recourse to pass the tax on to our clients. We oppose any increase in the B&O which Governor Inslee has proposed.
    • Life insurers pay millions of dollars via Premium Taxes to support the State General Fund and fund the costs associated with the Office of Insurance.
    • Washington allows life insurers to take a credit against Premium Tax obligations for their assessments paid to the Guaranty Association-20% each year over a 5-year period. There are bills to either increase the tax burden on life and health insurers OR eliminate the credit allowance currently in place.
  • Oppose HB 1185 and SB 5242 – bills that would alter the Washington Insurance Inducements Requirements and destroy the agreement reached between the OIC and licensed producers in 2015.
A controversial San Francisco-based employee benefits firm is apparently behind the introduction of HB 1185 and SB 5242 – companion measures that would allow insurers, insurance producers, or title insurance agents to offer goods that are free or for less than fair market value incident to an insurance sale or solicitation. The bills were introduced at the request of Zenefits after Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler ordered the company last month to cease offering free employee benefits software, finding that the activity is in violation of Washington’s law against inducements. The company was fined by the OIC in 2016 for allowing unlicensed individuals to sell insurance in Washington. Last November regulators in California imposed significant fines and penalties against the company for licensing violations in that state.

HB 1185 was considered at a hearing of the House Business & Financial Services Committee for consideration, and a hearing has been scheduled to consider the measure on Wednesday, January 25. SB 5242 was considered by Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee at a hearing on Thursday, January 26. NAIFA, together with other producer associations and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, testified in opposition to the measures. NAIFA President Neal Kloke, together with Keith Wallace, the President of the Washington Association of Health Underwriters, along with representatives of the Professional Insurance Agents of Washington/Alaska and the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of Washington, testified that the measures would unravel recently-enacted revisions to Washington’s Insurance Inducement provisions that were the result of careful negotiations between the OIC and producer groups only two years ago. They also expressed concern that the bill would provide competitive advantages to large entities who are able to offer large financial inducements to build client relationships that are completely beyond the reach of main street agents and brokers. The OIC also testified against the bills.

    • An out-of-state firm wants to eliminate the $100 maximum allowance for gifts to insurance prospects or clients.
    • This firm offers a software suite for no charge that most small businesses would normally pay thousands of dollars to purchase. While they say the software is free to any small business, the firm strongly seeks to take over insurance plans by BOR and remove the local producer, forcing the small business to deal with an 800 number on all issues.
    • This firm does almost all business by phone and email using unlicensed representatives.
  • Support HB 1338 and SB 5253 to continue the Washington State Health Insurance Pool – WSHIP – which is designed to sunset at the end of 2017.
    • With changes coming to the Affordable Care Act, the Insurance Commissioner as well as all insurance associations (NAIFA, WAHU, PIA, etc.) believe the WSHIP should not be allowed to sunset but be available as a lifeboat for the 200-300 insured individuals that have coverage through WSHIP. Most of the WSHIP insureds are in ESRD and unable to obtain coverage elsewhere.
Producers met with dozens of Representatives and Senators during the afternoon and discussed these issues. For the most part, legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, seemed to better understand the impact of these bills and most of them agreed with our positions.

Thanks to Mel Sorensen and all the members of NAIFA that sacrificed a day from their normal business activities to be at Day On The Hill. Your participation is appreciated. Now is the time to contact your own representatives and Senator. Make sure they know you stand ready as a resource to their office on insurance and investment topics.

Richard Ek, IFAPAC Co-Chair

Richard Miller, Advocacy/Legislative Chair

Mel Sorensen, NAIFA-Washington Lobbyist


2017 January/February President's Message

Embracing Change?
After our last board meeting in October 2016 we created a “NAIFA Steering Committee” to evaluate, strategize and discuss impactful change that would attract new members, retain current members and keep members involved in their local associations and communities.
After a handful of phone conferences, the Steering committee came up with the idea of the “One Washington Initiative” to help Unify, Simplify and Energize our membership.
The committee felt it would be more efficient to brand our membership more consistently as one unified NAIFA Washington. 
The committee felt it would be more efficient to simplify the governance requirement by reducing or eliminating the individual local association’s legal obligations, freeing up local resources to focus on more important events or projects.  Get more by asking less of current membership.
The committee felt preservation of identity in local associations was necessary for programs, participation and membership growth.
The NAIFA One Washington Initiative was outlined and discussed with your local leadership that were in attendance at the State Board Meeting on January 25th in Olympia WA.  Please contact your local leadership to learn more about the proposed Initiative.
If you have further questions please contact Jenna Olson our State Executive and she will have one of the Steering Committee leaders reach out to you.

Thank you!
Neal Kloke
President WA State

2017 January/February IFAPAC

Do you have a gold box?

Over the phone, his mother told him, "Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday." Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.

"Jack, did you hear me?" "Oh, sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It's been so long since I thought of him. I'm sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago," Jack said...

"Well, he didn't forget you. Every time I saw him he'd ask how you were doing. He'd reminisce about the many days you spent over 'his side of the fence' as he put it," Mom told him.

"I loved that old house he lived in," Jack said.

"You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man's influence in your life," she said.

"He's the one who taught me carpentry," he said. "I wouldn't be in this business if it weren't for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important. Mom, I'll be
there for the funeral," Jack said.

As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser's funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.

The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time.

Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture. Jack stopped suddenly...

"What's wrong, Jack?" his Mom asked.

"The box is gone," he said.. "What box?" Mom asked.

"There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he'd ever tell me was 'the thing I value most,'" Jack said.

It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it.

"Now I'll never know what was so valuable to him," Jack said.
"I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom."

It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. "Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days," the note read. Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention. "Mr. Harold Belser" it read. Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack's hands shook as he read the note inside.

"Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It's the thing I valued most in my life." A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch.

Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved:

"Jack, Thanks for your time! - Harold Belser."

"The thing he valued most was... my time"

Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. "Why?" Janet, his assistant asked.

"I need some time to spend with my son," he said.
 "Oh, by the way, Janet, thanks for your time!"

Think about this. You may not realize it, but it's 100% true.

1. At least 15 people in this world love you in some way.

. A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don't like you.

. Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.

4.. You mean the world to someone.

5. If not for you, someone may not be living.

6. You are special and unique.

7. When you think you have no chance of getting what you want, you probably won't get it, but if you trust God to do what's best, and wait on His time, sooner or later, you will get it or something better.

8. When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good can still come from it.

9. When you think the world has turned its back on you,
take a look: you most likely turned your back on the world.

10. Someone that you don't even know exists loves you.

11. Always remember the compliments you received.
Forget about the rude remarks.

12 . Always tell someone how you feel about them; you will feel much better when they know and you'll both be happy .

13. If you have a great friend, take the time to let them
know that they are great.

What's in your gold box?  To whom will you send it?

I know, what does this have to do with IFAPAC?

Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.
We appreciate your support and encourage you to challenge another NAIFA member to match what you contribute to this great profession.
Richard Ek