President's Message (November 18, 2009)

When I became president of the Academy about a month ago, I pledged to keep our members informed of the Academy's progress on public policy, professionalism, and governance issues. In that spirit, I'd like to bring you up to date on the Academy's involvement in health care reform, one of the predominant public policy issues over the past year.

In front of and behind the scenes, the Academy has been extremely active in providing objective analysis to policymakers, the media, and other policy experts throughout the health reform debate. The Health Practice Council, led by Vice President Al Bingham and aided by over 100 volunteers, representing more than 10 committees and work groups, has undertaken numerous projects and outreach efforts. These efforts include:

  • The development of the Critical Issues in Health Reform series. Thus far, the series includes 12 educational statements on issues pertaining to an individual mandate, a public plan option, transition issues, and actuarial equivalence, among others.
  • Collaborative research and modeling projects with the Society of Actuaries on the CLASS Act (a voluntary long-term care program included in major health reform proposals), the start-up capital requirements associated with health insurance cooperatives and a public plan option, and the implications of a tax on Cadillac plans (ongoing).
  • Educational briefings (in person and via webcast) for policymakers and media on broad topics such as risk pooling, as well as in-depth briefings on more technical topics such as actuarial equivalence, risk adjustment, and start-up costs for co-ops and a public plan option. The Academy is often invited to speak at briefings organized by other policy organizations, and we frequently respond to behind-the-scenes congressional requests for information on issues ranging from risk-sharing provisions to the effect of various reform provisions on premiums.
  • Testimony and targeted comments letters on the various pieces of legislation. Most recently, this includes a letter to U.S. House of Representatives leadership on issues to be considered as members of Congress debated recently-passed H.R 3962. We will soon issue a statement on the relative impact of health care reform provisions on premiums, including a state-by-state breakdown of current issue and rating rules.
  • Media placements in high-profile print and on-line publications like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and USA Today as well as numerous trade journals, business news publications, and local newspapers. Cori Uccello, our senior health fellow, has also made appearances on PBS' "Nightly Business Report" and Fox Business to discuss Academy work related to health care reform. Check out the Academy's newsroom for a sampling of placements with links.

To stay up-to-date on all of the Academy's health care reform activities, check out the dedicated page on the Academy's website.

The Academy will continue to serve its members by being a valued and respected resource of objective actuarial information among policymakers and the media alike. Our goal is to maintain this reputation through careful consideration of member and volunteer input balanced with a non-partisan approach to presenting our public policy messages on the issues that impact our areas of practice. Where appropriate, we will advocate specific solutions (e.g., our position on the Social Security retirement age), but where there is no clear consensus on the best outcome, we will advocate for reasoned, non-partisan open debate on the issue.

Before closing, I wish to congratulate the Society of Actuaries and Casualty Actuarial Society. At the recent International Actuarial Association meeting in India, a Treaty was signed among 14 actuarial organizations to make the SOA's CERA designation the internationally recognized credential for actuaries working in the ERM arena. The SOA should be congratulated and thanked for sharing its intellectual capital with actuarial organizations around the world. The CAS was one of the signers of the Treaty.

Thank you again for your time. As always, we appreciate your comments and ideas - you can email us at


Ken Hohman
American Academy of Actuaries