Commissioners Huddle Will Include Those New To The Game

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When state insurance commissioners meet Feb. 3-4 in Denver for their annual huddle and strategy session that sets the tone for the year, it will be the first time for six participants.

The freshman class of commissioners is the largest in a decade. Currently, there are 13 new commissioners, but that number is expected to reach up to 23 later this year.

Mike Pickens, the new president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, says the NAIC is establishing a mentor program in which new commissioners can work with a seasoned commissioner and get background on any issue.

Kiosks will also be made available so that new commissioners can learn more about NAIC services and resources, he adds.

Pickens says that despite staff turnover at insurance departments, there can be a smooth transition because “there are good people behind those people who are willing to step up. We have a deep bench in the states.”

If the NAIC is going to educate its own on the issues, it is also plans to educate state and federal lawmakers.

The NAIC, according to Pickens, will continue to bring its message to federal lawmakers through its Washington office and “will maintain more of a presence,” given the issues that will come up in Congress. For instance, he says discussion of a single federal regulator could come up this year.

NAIC is already part of the discussion on the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 and continues to work on questions such as whether captive insureds or self-insureds should be included under the scope of the act.

Another issue being raised is whether states performing market conduct examinations should be the “primary enforcers” for ensuring there is compliance among insurers with the USA Patriot Acts money laundering provisions.

At a grass roots level, Pickens says a new program, ASSURE, will be introduced at the spring NAIC meeting in Atlanta from March 8-11. The Alliance of Sound State Uniform Regulatory Efficiency will be used as an education tool for state and local lawmakers, he adds.

When the NAIC spreads the word about its work, the message will include some of last years issues: an interstate compact proposal, headed by NAIC Immediate Past President and Iowa Commissioner Terri Vaughan; work on CARFRA standards, headed by Michigan Commissioner Frank Fitzgerald; market conduct and consumer affairs, headed by NAIC Secretary-Treasurer and Oregon Administrator Joel Ario; and work on ensuring proper payment of Holocaust claims, headed by returning California Commissioner John Garamendi.

But there will also be some new items that Pickens says the NAIC faces this year.

The General Accounting Office is expected to deliver a report this spring or summer, Pickens says, that could raise concerns about the market conduct process. “Now is the time to move market conduct and health issues to the front of the line,” he says.

In fact, health care will be a major issue this year, with a goal of focusing on finding market-based solutions and cost drivers such as medical care, pharmaceuticals, and utilization.

Potential solutions, he explains, could include medical savings accounts and health insurance purchasing pools that are not association health plans but have features of AHPs, which are small group insurance pools that spread risks across a state.

In Arkansas, Pickens says, small employers can participate in purchasing pools, and health consumers can choose a plan with or without state mandates depending on budget.

The pool, he continues, would be with a licensed health insurance company which would help ensure solvency since it would have to meet regulatory standards.

Such plans have been “fairly well received by the business community,” according to Pickens.

Heading up the Health Insurance and Managed Care “B” Committee will be Janie Miller, Kentucky insurance commissioner.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, February 3, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.