Once again we asked our Council lobbyists (this time including Government Affairs director Blaire Bartlett) to give us a read on where we are and where we are going. Here’s their 2019 outlook. —Editor
Well, guys, let us begin on a note of new-year cheer, recognizing two things—first, that commercial insurance brokerage issues generally aren’t partisan, and second, that while extremes on the left and right continue to polarize our politics, there is a great silent majority in the middle who just want everybody to get along and get things done. Can we hope for this, at least?
That’s absolutely right, Joel. I look at the issues facing our members and I look at the incoming Congress, and I’m feeling pretty decent, considering it’s a divided government and not a whole lot is going to reach the president’s desk. What’s even more exciting, is that this really IS a new Congress! 100 new members total. 66 New Democrats and 44 new Republicans. This is the closest we’ve had to a fresh start in a LONG time!
Yea, right. And so much for all your new fresh Democratic leadership. Your numbers 1, 2 and 3 are all over 78 years old and have occupied their same positions for more than a decade. Hope, change and fresh vision?
Ugh. Look. 40% of the Democratic caucus is female. That’s refreshing. We have a record number of veterans in this Congress. More members under the age of 40 than I can ever remember. This is a new day. They were largely ushered in on the messaging of protecting the ACA and preserving protections for Americans with preexisting conditions (by the way, how many Republicans voted 57 times to repeal the ACA and then ran a poll and magically campaigned on PROTECTING preexisting conditions this time around?). But we all know the driving force behind all this is the president. I don’t know where to begin on that note…but we have front row seats for an amazing, historic showdown.
I’m pushing 60, and so I do wonder who all of these children are who are wandering around Congress. Look, save your “preexisting conditions” crap for your stump speech. The reality is that your party barely outperformed historic trends for midterm elections and Republicans expanded their Senate majority.
Sent from Nine
Ha. I love watching the GOP try to minimize everything that’s happening. Yes, it would have been wonderful to take back the Senate, but nobody expected that to happen, and considering Dems were defending 24 seats—10 in Trump country—they did pretty good. And Pelosi, love her or hate her, is going to be a force. I don’t know who better to navigate the oversite and impeachment pressures while pursuing the people’s business than Nancy Pelosi. And watching Trump mansplain things to her in public settings does not bode well for suburban independent women.
The people’s business? Pelosi? Even as a woman I find that hard to believe.
Look at their agenda and it’s not far off from ours. Drug pricing, stabilizing individual health insurance markets, reauthorizing TRIA, and reforming NFIP. Yea. And, for better or worse, I understand she’s reinstating pay-go rules, which means that every dollar spent needs to be accounted for. No more borrowing from China. When the last speaker took the gavel, our deficit stood at a little under $500 billion. This year, it will be at $1 trillion because everything was borrowed. So, pay-go rules could work against us in some areas, but restoring order and sanity is—or at least should be considered—the people’s business.
If you’re watching Fox though, this might not come through…
I do agree that *some* of the issues facing our industry in the next Congress (NFIP and TRIA reauthorizations) should have smoother sailing than in the last two Congresses. However, I will be surprised if the House Democrats will be able to do anything else than reauthorize because they will be so focused on impeaching President Trump. I doubt the president is going to want to work with House Democrats while all of the executive agency staff are getting subpoenaed by House committees. Yet again, we must rely on the Senate...
Speaking of, Joel, how do you see drug pricing legislation getting through Senate Finance and HELP Committees? There’s no shortage of bills being considered in the House—everything from allowing drug reimportation to regulating PBMs and shining light on manufacturing costs. The White House seems open to some of these ideas. Our members have a vested interest in how this plays out. We just have to find the right sweet spot.
Perhaps I’m just being a sunny optimist here, but I do tend to think that drug pricing might be one sweet spot, given bipartisan dissatisfaction on the issue. And incoming Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley is an industry critic, as opposed to his predecessor, Sen. Orrin Hatch. But, checking myself, the drug industry is deeply enmeshed here, and all they need to do is continue to stoke the partisan differences. It’s always easier to beat stuff in this town than it is to pass it—that’s the way Madison created our government. We’ve got Congress, not Parliament. So, on that basis, I will now proclaim a premature victory in defeating Democrats thoroughly on the issues surrounding single-payer, Medicare for all, Medicare buy-in. And we shouldn’t let any of these Democrats off the hook who fire up their base promising that stuff.
Ha. I was wondering when you were going to go there. Took you long enough. Here’s the deal, and I bet you agree with me. This whole fuss over single-payer and Medicare for all was ignited by the relentless pursuit to repeal the ACA with absolutely no plan in place on how to guarantee affordable coverage and protect preexisting conditions. The irony behind the entire scenario is so ridiculous, considering that even Newt Gingrich supported the key elements of the ACA and a former Republican presidential candidate tested out these key tenets in his home state. It doesn’t matter though, I know. The far left of the Democratic party—now dubbed “the herbal Tea Party”—grew in reaction the original Tea Party’s mindless pursuit of ripping up the ACA. So if we’re holding progressives accountable, then we need to hold conservatives equally accountable for intentionally eroding the markets.
I’m actually heartened, though, that the messaging and policies we’ve been doggedly pursuing with Democrats in last year’s campaign actually seized the day. And that is: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Their job should be to ensure every one of their constituents has equal access to affordable, quality healthcare. Full stop. The ACA sought to do just that by building on employer-provided benefits, and if we allowed the ACA to function, and even worked to strengthen in it, I think most Democrats believe that we could achieve that goal. And, by the way, the 156 million Americans who receive their coverage primarily through one of our members would be left unscathed.
Trying to steer the party to focus on the end, not the means, is clearly a herculean task, but it’s working. The most consistent messaging that ushered in newly elected Democrats in Republican seats was based around protecting preexisting conditions. Which means strengthening the ACA and restoring the individual mandate, CSR payments, and the like. Medicare for All was the not the message that delivered Democrats the majority. To be clear, 64% of the 42 seats Democrats flipped will be held by members of the Blue Dogs or the moderate New Democratic Coalition; only 27% of those seats will be held by members of the Progressive Caucus. And of the 20 seats now held by Democrats but that favored Trump in 2016, 11 are Blue Dog or New Dem members; only three are in the Progressive Caucus.
Sure, there will be efforts to expand Medicare and some members will always see single-payer as the north star, but right now they need to fix what they’ve inherited, and I can tell that Democratic leadership well understands that this means restoring the ACA. And we will stand by them.
Oh…Joel…those anti-Obamacare votes were “messaging” votes…just like all those Democrats who signed onto HR 676, the “Medicare for All” bill, was a message to their base.
You know what keeps me up at night? We have two big programs that need possible reform and reauthorization this next Congress: the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). While NFIP reauthorization seems to never go away, TRIA is a big one.
Thank you for your interruption, Blaire, and attempt to steer me away from a head explosion and on to important property/casualty issues. But first, puh-lease, Joel K. Democrats are for socialized medicine because Republicans didn’t like Obamacare? And we should just ignore it and not judge them on it? And we should be heartened that all these newly elected (and newly vulnerable) House Ds are slapping their names on Blue Dog letterhead? I remember when Blue Dogs were Blue Dogs and were willing to defy their leadership to support business-friendly goals. That’s been damn near a decade ago. Name me the issue that caucus is now willing to defy Nancy Pelosi on and vote with Republicans. Just one.
But, OK. I’m breathing in, out, in, out now. I will go ahead and note what Joel K is anxious to say—that despite her liberal, Trump-hating, firebrand reputation, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee does not alarm me on any of our parochial issues. TRIA reauthorization will be a big issue next year, and she has been nothing but a supporter on TRIA since day one. Her predecessor, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) tried and largely failed to significantly roll back the program. And on flood insurance, she’s been practical and engaged, and she has superb staff. Weirdly, I think we’re going to have more bipartisanship on that committee, and thus it will totally evade the headlines. The new ranking Republican on the committee, Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), is and has always been a tremendous friend to us.
And in the Senate, it’s steady as she goes. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) remains the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is someone with whom we also have had an excellent relationship, even though he frustrates me on his opposition to expanding private flood insurance (essentially by guiding banks to accept non-admitted paper) out of concern for “cherry picking.”
We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning, you’re going to come to me and go, ‘Please, please, we can’t win anymore, we don’t want to win anymore. It’s too much. It’s not fair to everybody else.’” And I’m going to say ‘I’m sorry, but we’re going to keep winning, winning, winning…”
Your Trump Derangement Syndrome continues to flare up.