The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) is expressing gratitude for an amendment that counters efforts to exclude independent agents from the health care exchanges envisioned in America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200).

Originally, the act would have barred the participation of all licensed insurance agents, instead relying upon unlicensed individuals or community groups to advise consumers utilizing the exchanges. Subsequently, Blue Dog Democrats passed an amendment that gives explicit authority to insurance agents to sell insurance in any exchange that the legislation may create.

“We find it incredible that any of the healthcare bills would attempt to ban the participation of licensed, professional, independent insurance agents,” PIA National President Kenneth Auerbach said in a statement. “In no other area is being certified and licensed considered a disqualifying factor. That’s like saying physicians cannot have medical accreditation, attorneys cannot be members of the Bar or auto mechanics cannot be certified technicians.”

Reps. Charlie Melancon (D-La.), Mike Ross (D-Ar.), Baron Hill (D-Ind.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Zack Space (D-Ohio), John Barrow (D-Ga.) and Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) sponsored the amendment.

“We thank the Blue Dog members of the House for ensuring that American consumers will not be denied the services of their own independent insurance agents under healthcare reform,” said PIA National President-elect Jon Spalding. “We are especially grateful to Rep. Melancon of Louisiana, who knows the importance of this issue because he is a former insurance agent and member of PIA.”

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