Regulators and others had plenty to say here about the State Modernization and Regulatory Transparency Act draft bill.[@@]
The SMART draft, also known as the insurance regulatory reform road map draft, was released in August by Reps. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, and Rep. Richard Baker, R-La.
Here are some of the views about the draft that attendees shared at the fall meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo.
- Joel Ario, NAIC secretary-treasurer and Oregon insurance administrator: Ario said there are 2 fundamental problems with the bill, including the issue of rate deregulation and the issue of preemption. But he added that there are other areas of the proposal such as market conduct which regulators can agree upon.
- Bruce Ferguson, a spokesman for the American Council of Life Insurers, Washington: Ferguson said an ACLI survey suggests that streamlining is an important issue and that there is support for the SMART Act. He noted that the interstate compact and market conduct provisions are positive features.
- Randi Reichel, a representative for America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington: Reichel noted the uniformity that the SMART Act would provide. She cited the need for uniform treatment of privacy and internal and external reviews.
- Birny Birnbaum, executive director of the Center for Economic Justice, Austin, Texas: Birnbaum called the act, the “DUMB Act” and said the acronym “DUMB” stands for the “Deregulation and Unfunded Mandates Bonanza” act. “There is nothing for consumers,” Birnbaum said of the draft. “It is a fantasy wish list for insurers.” Birnbaum complained about what he said were “roadblocks and impediments that will have regulators jumping through hoops.” Birnbaum said SMART draft provisions would give insurers’ home-state regulators deference without giving the home-state regulators the resources they need to do their jobs.
- Brian Kennedy, a Rhode Island state representative who was representing the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, Albany, N.Y.: Kennedy said of the SMART draft, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” Kennedy said those in Congress who are pushing for the legislation are operating under the assumption that “the NAIC, whether through elected or appointed commissioners, makes the law. The last I knew, legislators made the law. If they are trying to make an end-run around state legislators, they are making a grave error.” In a letter submitted to Oxley and Baker Sept. 10, NCOIL pointed to the work state legislators have done to streamline state insurance regulation.
- Frank Wald, a North Dakota state representative: Wald noted that he has been a state legislator for 24 years, and he added that “if I understand the SMART Act, it is the beginning of the end.” Wald said the SMART Act would lead to a gradual encroachment on state insurance regulation that would result in a gutting of insurance departments as functions shift to the federal level and a loss of millions of dollars of premium taxes for states. Consumers can more readily have insurance issues addressed at the state level, Wald added.