This past May 4th was my fifth consecutive year joining with my industry association, the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, to share anecdotal stories about how legislation affects our clients. This was a somewhat memorable experience:it isn’t every day that you meet with lawmakers discussing important issues like health care in the morning and watch votes on health care reform pass the House of Representatives in the afternoon.
Thursday morning Gabriel DeSouza and I met with representative Bill Keating; he expressed frustration and concern with TrumpCare, which was announced Wednesday evening. So it was an interesting experience to be in the capitol building later that afternoon as our lawmakers in the house passed TrumpCare. Notably, no Democrats, and hence no lawmakers from Massachusetts voted for the bill. While our industry association, the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, does not have an official stance on that legislation, we did have one ask related to health care that both Keating and a representative from Senator Markey’s office agreed on: repealing the ACA’s Cadillac tax, which penalizes employers and employees who elect health coverage that is considered “expensive.” That is subjective. Massachusetts has some of the best health care in the country, but it comes with a cost: it is also the most expensive. So the 40% Cadillac tax, which was already delayed from 2018 until 2020, could potentially tax Massachusetts tremendously. We hope the tax will be indefinitely postponed, and have lobbied for this every spring for the past few years. No one should be penalized 40% for providing health care to employees.
Despite the talk of TrumpCare, the main issue we addressed was Flood Insurance. Cape Cod, and all of Massachussets for that matter, has a tremendous amount of primary and secondary homes in special flood hazard areas which, if backed by a government mortgage, are mandated to purchase flood insurance. The federal administered NFIP is $25B in debt and has had multiple attempts to fix the problem, whether from FEMA remapping to the Biggert Waters act of 2012 to the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013. The problem now is that the program is set to expire September 30th this year. We discuss flood insurance every year we’re here, and rather than kicking the issues two years down the road, we want a long term, 10 year solution that balances the necessity of supporting the NFIP so we can all buy flood insurance, while also allowing a slow, organic growth of private flood insurance markets. A few years ago congress let the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act expire for a few days which caused a disruption for clients who happened to have an expiration and renewal. A few years before that there was also a lapse in the NFIP. Any lapse in flood insurance availability means big headaches for mortgage originators, real estate agents, consumers looking to close on the purshase of a home, and my colleagues in the insurance industry. A long term solution will help ensure consumers can continue to buy the flood insurance mandated by their mortgage requirements.
Each year we also lobby for equitable tax treatment between small businesses and large C corporations. (Small businesses are taxed at higher rates because they are “pass through entities”). This year the tax reform takes on a special note as this is a priority of the new administration. The remaining two issues we touched on was insurance regulation, which we think works best on a state-to-state basis (as opposed to being regulated federally) and continued support of Crop Insurance.