Washington, D.C.—I recently attended the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) annual “fly in” event, where employee benefits specialists meet for two days and then see the offices of their respective Senators and members of Congress. In reality, it is rather rare to actually meet the member, but instead, the meeting is usually with one of the administrative aides. That can actually be a good thing, since the aides often have more expertise on the subject at hand.

The preliminary NAHU meetings often have high-level members of Congress and the Administration in attendance, and it is thus possible to get a closer look at the employee benefits laws as they are considered and debated in Washington.

Keynote speaker, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), a former insurance broker, gave an excellent talk on the role of the agent in healthcare reform. There were a number of excellent breakout talks including one by Dr. Tim Church, Chief Medical Officer of ACAP Health Consulting. His expertise on the importance of structured weight loss in any wellness plan was well presented. The potential medical costs due to the obesity epidemic are frightening, and his company specializes in that phase of overall employee wellness.

“How We Can Offer More Transparency in Medical Costs” was a key conference topic. Suzanne Delbanco of Catalyst for Payment Reform spoke about what is being done nationally and how far we have to go. We are still at the beginning stages of this national debate, but progress is being made. As more and more Americans purchase high deductible health plans with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), the need for accurate, comparative health cost data is more important than ever.

After the meetings, we headed off to Capitol Hill. I met with one of the legislative aides for Congressman Jared Huffman. It is a small world, because the legislative aide is the nephew of an Arrow client. Beyond discussing legislative issues of the day, we offered our services to their constituents who may need help navigating the maze of healthcare reform today. In the past, I have also met with the legislative aides of Congressman Mike Thompson. But, the timing did not work to see them this trip, so I left the information for them.

Walking the halls of Congress is really an eye-opening experience; the offices are actually fairly small, situated in buildings with names such as Longworth, Cannon, Russell, and Rayburn. Once past security, it is possible to travel underground to other buildings through tunnels. Nearby is the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and of course, the United States Capitol building.

Back home we deal with healthcare issues every day but it is helpful, I believe, to annually visit Washington, D.C., to try to be part of the solution at the political level as well.