The head of the nation’s insurance regulators group said that while his group is split from state lawmakers on many issues, this should not derail efforts to save state regulation from federal encroachment.
National Association of Insurance Commissioners President Al Iuppa, the Maine insurance superintendent, said that state lawmakers and regulators naturally have a different point of view due to their varying responsibilities.
“We are looking from a regulatory point of view while state lawmakers have to take an overall public policy point of view,” Mr. Iuppa said.
The issues on which the NAIC and the National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) have recently differed, sometimes quite vehemently, include market conduct reform, rate regulation and imposition of federal Sarbanes-Oxley accounting requirements for mutual insurance companies.
In all those instances, NCOIL has staked out what could be considered a more pro-industry position.
In the aftermath of the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Modernization Act of 1999, and the resultant push for a more nationalized regimen of insurance regulation, efforts have been made by the two groups to work together more harmoniously than was the case in the 1990s when there were sharp differences on issues of insurer solvency regulation and accreditation.
Mr. Iuppa does not see any new rift as impeding efforts to fight federalization of insurance regulation whether through an optional federal charter or imposition of standards to be implemented at the state level.
Consumer advocate and longtime insurance observer Birny Birnbaum said the 2004 efforts to develop a joint market conduct model represented an anomaly, and one which did not prove successful.
“The more recent activities of NCOIL–abandoning the joint market conduct model and pushing rate deregulation with a flex rating model–are more in line with NCOIL’s historical approach of appeasing the insurance industry,” Mr. Birnbaum said.
The debate over new mutual insurer reporting requirements between the two groups grew testy at times. Former NCOIL president New York Senator William Larkin, R-Cornwall-On-Hudson, took special pains to point out to a visiting regulator what happens when you have to face the voters every few years and therefore cannot be quite so casual about the cost of new requirements.
At a later meeting, Pennsylvania Deputy Commissioner Steve Johnson, an advocate of the new rules, noted that only one member of his state’s delegation took part in NCOIL and perhaps the group’s point of view was not all that significant.