Csiszar Responds To Consumer Critics

By Steven Brostoff, Washington Editor

NU Online News Service, March 5, 9:06 a.m. EST?Ernst Csiszar, the president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, responding to a complaint by a coalition of consumer groups that he is improperly pushing a deregulation agenda for the insurance industry, said their criticism is “unwarranted and inaccurate.”[@@]

The consumer organizations’ letter to NAIC commissioners, suggesting that Mr. Csiszar, the South Carolina insurance director, might resign, was signed by J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for Consumer Federation of America, and Norma P. Garcia, Consumers Union senior attorney, on behalf of Americans for Insurance Reform and its 100 participating groups.

Commissioners should direct Mr. Csiszar to “honor his position as president of the NAIC or, if he is unwilling to do so, to resign and allow someone supportive of the NAIC and state regulation to take his place,” the letter said.

“While we value the input and the views of Mr. Hunter and Ms. Garcia, in this case they have misrepresented the facts and I think it is important to point that out,” Mr. Csiszar said in answer.

“I have absolutely not abandoned state regulation nor any NAIC established policies,” he added.

Mr. Csiszar said that NAIC continues to work with members of Congress to ensure that ongoing regulatory reforms will preserve state regulatory authority and essential consumer protection initiatives.

“Congress is calling for ‘radical’ reforms in state regulation,” Mr. Csiszar said, “and may take certain steps with or without state regulator involvement.”

Mr. Hunter had said in a statement that Mr. Csiszar “favors broad deregulation of many aspects of insurance. His views are on the extreme end of the spectrum of views of members of the NAIC. Consumers will be hurt and state insurance regulators deprived of authority to help consumers or address market problems under the radical deregulation agenda he pushes.”

Ms. Garcia accused Mr. Csiszar of being so zealous on behalf of a deregulation agenda that he is “abandoning NAIC work products and placing at risk the very viability of state insurance regulation and associated consumer protections.”

The letter said the groups are concerned that Mr. Csiszar “is using his position as NAIC president to push his extreme views instead of consensus positions taken by the NAIC.”

According to the groups, Mr. Csiszar has pledged to abandon NAIC work products in favor of other organizations’ work that are more in line with his personal agenda.

Director Csiszar has promised to promote the National Conference of Insurance Legislators rate model, “which is an industry wish list that goes beyond deregulation and places barriers in front of regulators who attempt to deal with problems in the marketplace,” according to the consumer advocates.

In the view of the letter writers, the NAIC has representatives from all the states, while at NCOIL, which does not have reps from all states, “insurers drive the development of NCOIL work products.”

The letter says the NAIC has long debated the issue of personal lines rate and form regulation. There has been no consensus as some regulators favor deregulation and other favor regulatory oversight as needed if market forces fail to protect consumers.

NAIC has a model property-casualty rate and form law that represents a compromise, the letter says, but that compromise has been bottled up by NAIC leadership.

“In its place, Commissioner Csiszar has pledged to promote the National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) rate model, which is an industry wish list that goes beyond deregulation and places barriers in front of regulators who attempt to deal with problems in the marketplace,” the letter said.

But in a statement, NAIC disputed that contention. NAIC has not taken any position regarding personal lines deregulation, the statement said, and Mr. Csiszar personally has not advocated any position on behalf of NAIC.

“Any other characterization of his activities or the position of the NAIC on this issue is unwarranted and inaccurate,” NAIC said.