Health exchanges: the missing piece

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently argued that a new health insurance exchange will help Maryland's small businesses more easily find affordable coverage ("Insurance exchanges will help Md.'s small businesses," July 28).

The exchange certainly has the potential to do so — but only if consumers and small businesses can access licensed, professional insurance agents through the new marketplace.

Many small businesses rely on agents to help them evaluate their coverage options. The Congressional Budget Office asserts that brokers "handle the responsibilities that larger firms generally delegate to their human resource departments — such as finding plans and negotiating premiums, providing information about the selected plans, and processing enrollees."

Consumers appreciate the service they've received. An IBM survey found that 75 percent of those who employed agents would continue to use them. Fifty-four percent said that no amount of savings could force them to drop their agents.

Janet Trautwein, Arlington, Va.

The writer is executive vice president and CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters.

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