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barney.jpgAlthough insurance remains (for the moment) a state-regulated business, the spotlight has clearly shifted to Washington this year, where the industry faces a number of critical battles–to defend its limited antitrust exemption, extend the federal terrorism reinsurance backstop, and, last but not least, determine once and for all who will regulate insurers and producers. But despite the many high-profile hearings staged by Congress these past two weeks to examine insurance issues, perhaps the most attention should be paid to a candid speech delivered at a private gathering last week by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who chairs the powerful House Financial Services Committee.

As reported by our own Matt Brady, Rep. Frank–aptly named, because he’s always been a straight shooter–warned that backers of federal regulation would be wise to start considering the price they’d be willing to pay for Uncle Sam’s involvement in terms of greater consumer protections.

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