NAIC Finds Many New Faces At Spring Meeting

By Michael Ha

NU Online News Service, March 12, 10:30 a.m. EST?Atlanta?More than 15 newly minted commissioners attended the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ national meeting for the first time here in Atlanta.

A spokesperson for the Kansas City, Mo.-based association told National Underwriter that the number is unusually high for the NAIC’s spring meeting this year because of the high number of new governors elected during last November’s elections. Many of the newly elected governors, representing the opposing party of previous administrations, appointed new insurance commissioners after taking office, the spokesperson said.

“All of those commissioners understand the issues and want to work with the NAIC and get to work. I think we have a great group of people,” said Mike Pickens, Arkansas insurance commissioner and president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

“Many of us have been around here for a long time, and it’s nice to have fresh ideas and perspectives,” Mr. Pickens told National Underwriter.

Mr. Pickens also commented that the NAIC is certainly concerned about the budget shortfalls in various states around the country and the potential impact on state insurance departments. There is also concern that the budget shortfalls could affect the commissioners’ ability to work together on the national level.

Like other agencies in state governments, many insurance departments have felt pressure from budgetary cutbacks, with some regulators subject to limits or even a total ban on traveling at the states’ expense.

“That certainly is a concern for us,” Mr. Pickens said. “But it hasn’t affected our work so far. Sometimes, the NAIC can fund some travel for regulators. Even when regulators can’t travel, we have other means. We have frequent conference calls, so it’s not so important to meet face to face.”

“But again, just from hearing the roll call in the meeting, I think practically all the commissioners or high level deputies were presented here.”

Mr. Pickens also emphasized that there are many pressing issues that concern regulators.

“One thing regulators are concerned about is the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act,” he said. “We are working with the Treasury department in implementing the TRIA. I think you will see regulators really scrutinize this issue for the next year at least.”

“The [Insurance Services Office] and insurance companies have been very responsive to Washington, D.C. and New York from what I heard, and we appreciate their effort to work with us because this is a difficult issue for regulators and the industry,” Mr. Pickens said.

He also added that commissioners around the country continue to be very concerned about high premiums.

“Commissioners want insurers to be healthy, but they also want to protect consumers,” he noted. “So that’s another important issue. We are continuously monitoring the hard market issue and we want to make sure that premiums are not excessive.”

New commissioners attending the NAIC’s spring meeting included:

? John Crowley, who is commissioner of banking, insurance, securities and healthcare administration for Vermont. He was appointed by Gov. Jim Davis last December.

? Paula A. Flowers, who was appointed as commissioner of the Tennessee department of commerce and insurance by Gov. Phil Bredesen in January.

? J.P. Schmidt, who was named insurance commissioner in Hawaii by Gov. Linda Lingle.

? Doug Dean, the new commissioner of insurance for Colorado. He was appointed in January by Gov. Bill Owens.

? Walter A. Bell, the new insurance commissioner for Alabama. Mr. Bell was appointed by Gov. Bob Riley last January.