Insurance Agents’ Political Contributions Questioned

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Health insurance agents and brokers who are lobbying to be excluded from a healthcare reform provision gave lawmakers more than $3.18 million in the 2010 election cycle, Consumer Watchdog said Thursday.

The announcement comes as more than 1,000 agents and brokers are on Capitol Hill to lobby for bipartisan legislation that would exclude agent and broker fees from being counted when insurers calculate their plans' medical-loss ratio. Agents are worried that counting their commissions will make it harder for insurance plans to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care, as they're required to by the new law.

The $3.18 million represents the contributions from the top three trade associations for agents and brokers, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Two-thirds of the contributions went to Republicans.

The bill's main sponsors, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and John Barrow (D-Ga.), received $16,000 and $12,500 respectively, according to Consumer Watchdog.

The three trade associations are the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America and the National Association of Health Underwriters. NAHU just recently hired the powerhouse firm Ernst and Young to lobby on its behalf, The Hill reported last week.

The bill received new impetus Wednesday when Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Education and Labor Committee's Health subcommittee, added his name to the growing list of 50 co-sponsors.

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