The most visible portion of President Obama's administration defining Affordable Care Act kicks off today with the grand opening of the health insurance marketplaces (formally know as exchanges), putting our industry (health insurance) on display for the entire county to see.
We are standing on the front lines for this historic industry reform, providing the American people with the first line of defense for trying to make sense of all the changes.
The only problem with that, like the actual marketplaces themselves, I hope we're ready.
Like most of you, I never dreamed of growing up one day to be an insurance agent, even if it was a profession that already ran two generation deep in my family.
Like a lot of little kids, I grew up wanting to play Major League Baseball, but a low 80's fastball was never going to take me to the seventh game of the World Series.
For every one of us who also grew up dreaming of playing on the biggest stage, here it is.
It might not look like what we expected, but this is our World Series, this is as big as it gets.
When you play on the biggest stage the smallest mistakes are amplified and remembered forever. Just ask Bill Buckner, Jose Mesa and Steve Bartman.
It can also turn average joes and washed up has-beens into heros. Curt Schilling, Aaron Boone and Kurt Gibson know a little bit about that.
We have an opportunity to restore faith in a profession most find irrelevant and obtrusive.
Making matters worse, the Republican party's attempt to "defund Obamacare" is as zany as a Garfield and Friends Saturday morning cartoon episode.
Change was and is needed, trying to pull the plug at this point just shows their complete lack of understanding for this needed change.
Did we get the change that was needed?
Probably not. But what we did get is change. Change that moved what was a seemingly immovable boulder. The wise thing to do would be to keep it moving instead of asking for it to be put back.
Regardless of your own political opinions on the law, we need to meet these changes head on and become THE experts and authorities on the matter to our clients and the people of our communities.
To put it another way, let's not screw this up.
It was touch and go for the longest time if they were even going to let us play the game.
Now, we have been gift wrapped an opportunity to demonstrate our true worth to a population who doesn't think we're worth a whole lot.
Even still you will see commercials and hear news broadcasts that point people to the supposed meca of health insurance answers healthcare.gov. All without of a mention of the one profession that can provide unbiased advice at no additional cost.
But why would anyone want to take us up on that offer?
Over the next six months we can erase decades of distrust. Not capitalizing on this opportunity could be the nail in our collective coffin.
The reason I'm scared and writing this letter is because still, just days away, people have come to me telling stories about agents who told them they don't know what's going to happen at the start of October.
We are better than that.
Either that agent is so afraid of the debilitating lack of transparency our industry offers or they have not been able to bother themselves to do their job the last three and half years. Whichever one you pick, it's not good.
I'm also afraid because I know a lot of agents and insurance people try and sell on want instead of need. I say that because I hear the commercials on the radio promoting the value plus, smart saver plans. If they were properly explained they would never be popular in the first place.
Trading three doctors office copay's for double the out-of-pocket maximum is no deal. Let's get serious.
The reason we are needed now, more than ever, is because this is one of the most polarizing pieces of legislation the country has seen in sometime. Also, it's very likely the big budget news outlets will continue to have a cherry picking field day with the information that gets the highest ratings or most clicks.
On one hand you can't blame them, they are just doing their job trying to make as much money as possible. On the other hand, only presenting the most favorable information to maximize profits is like selling a health insurance policy to someone that pays a higher commision, even if it isn't right for them.
But that is just one of the questionable practices attached to our reputation, not theirs.
I guess my point is, I hope we are able to come out of this process with our heads held high having guided people through this minefield of uncertainty.
The new law will help a LOT of people get health insurance, at the same time will make things more challenging for a LOT of different people.
Offering a one-size-fits-all solution tomorrow will undoubtedly create more problems than it solves.
Just yesterday I was going back and forth with some people on Google+ - who live in several different states - talking about how the "Affordable" Care Act will have a negative financial impact on their health insurance.
That's is why we need to be at our best as our expert information has never been need more, even if people don't know it yet.
This is our fastball down the middle of the plate, don't foul it off.
Now let's get out there and clean up this mess.
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