Bill guaranteeing insurance agents commission passes House

Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R - Bonaire) presents a bill in 2016.

Combined ShapeCaption
Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R - Bonaire) presents a bill in 2016.

Legislation that mandates Georgia health insurance agents be paid a commission for all sales passed the state House on Thursday.

House Bill 64 is the second attempt from state Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, to protect agents. It passed the House by a vote of 172-1.

Last year's bill set a minimum commission rate for all plans sold, something that helped scuttle it in the Senate.

This year, Blackmon does not require a specific commission rate. Also gone from this year's version is the name of House Rules Committee Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun, as the top co-sponsor.

Meadows, perhaps the second most powerful member of the House, is also an insurance agent and his presence on the bill raised conflicts of interest questions a year ago.

Combined ShapeCaption
Watch: What's in Gov. Deal's new budget?

Opponents of the measure say it still smacks of hypocrisy from a Republican Party that has long argued against government interference in businesses and for a free-market philosophy in legislating.

Blackmon argues such criticism is unfair.

Earlier this month, Blackmon said because the Affordable Care Act requires all taxpayers to have health insurance, agents in small towns are handling more individual plans than before.

Insurance companies, he said, were not always paying commissions for those less profitable plans