State Regulators Launch ASSURE Program

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Regulators stepped up efforts to get the message out that state regulation is the most effective oversight for insurance.

South Carolina became the first of 16 states that are currently in the process of implementing the ASSURE program, an effort by state regulators to emphasize the benefits of state regulation.

ASSURE, or the Alliance for Sound State Uniform Regulatory Efficiency, is also being developed in Arkansas, says Mike Pickens, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo.

But an announcement made by Republican Gov. Mark Sanford on April 14 said South Carolina is the first state to launch the program.

The announcement was made during a symposium on state versus federal regulation that was put together by insurance groups including the Alliance of American Insurers, Downers Grove, Ill.

Although improvements can be made, South Carolina Director Ernst Csiszar says states are capable of making that improvement.

State regulation is better suited to issues including tort law exposures which involve very localized conditions, according to Csiszar.

And, state regulation will continue to be an important issue given the potential impact on premium taxes and contributions to state guaranty funds, Csiszar says.

Historically, when federal regulation supersedes state regulation, there has not been much money coming back to states, and when there have been federal grants, they have often been tied to social programs, he continues.

In addition to the 16 states that are already in the process of implementing ASSURE, a NAIC survey is being distributed to determine what other states are going to participate, says Pickens.

He explained how the program will operate. State insurance regulators will choose committee chairs who will oversee a steering committee that will publicize the importance of state insurance regulation, Pickens says. Those efforts will be ongoing and not just issue specific, he explains.

For life insurers, state insurance regulation offers an effective approach to speed-to-market efforts and the furtherance of regulatory modernization, Pickens explains.

Pickens says he thinks members of Congress are supportive of state-based insurance regulation and just want to make certain that greater efficiency and improvements to the system “occur in pretty short fashion.”

Csiszar, who just testified before Congress, says pressure on the current state-based system from other possible models for insurance regulation, including an optional federal charter and federal mandates, can be a positive because it can lead to improvements in the current system.

“We saw what happened with NARAB [the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers state reciprocity requirements under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.] Quite frankly, I cant blame them. For many years, it [state-based regulation] has lagged behind,” he continues. “This can help us get away from an outdated system,” and improve state regulation, Csiszar adds.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, April 21, 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.