Bob Hunter Should

Just Shut Up

Based on Bob Hunter’s latest rant against including group life insurance in any extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, I’ve gone from thinking of him as a noisy pain in the butt to someone who is just deluded enough to do real harm.

Hunter, as you may or may not know, is the insurance mouth of the Consumer Federation of America. The CFA can sometimes be a bit wacky, but ordinarily it’s not an organization with which I have particular problems.

Hunter can invariably be counted on to take a position contrary to the insurance industry’s–whatever the coverage, the regulation or remedy, it hardly matters. If the industry’s for it, he’s against it.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to tune out people who are as predictable in their responses as the characters that come out of the door of an elaborate Swiss clock.

I wish congressional committees would feel the same way and stop inviting him to deliver his foregone conclusions about the insurance business as the voice of the consumer. There are other consumer reps, congressmen.

Fortunately, much of Hunter’s anti-industry venom is usually directed at the property-casualty side of the business, so we don’t need to pay him much mind here in the life and health bailiwick.

But when he does intrude on the life side, watch out. This was the case at the recent hearing held by the Capital Markets Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee on extending TRIA.

The case for including group life in TRIA would seem to be pretty straightforward–the Treasury Department notwithstanding. Politicians across the political spectrum recognize this. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, jointly sponsored a bill that would simply extend TRIA and would include group life in the extension.

As Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., said at the hearing, “We need to insure the people inside the buildings and not just the buildings themselves.”

This makes eminent sense to Ernst Csiszar, who is now president and CEO of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, and who used to be president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Csiszar told the committee that “as with workers’ compensation, potential losses under group life insurance can be enormous, given the concentration of risk in some workplaces. Group life insurance products provide valuable protection to more than 150 million citizens and in many instances is their only life insurance.

“As we protect our nation’s assets we must not neglect protection of the economic security of its workers,” Csiszar said. “PCI, therefore, strongly supports the addition of group life coverage to the program.”

Not Hunter, however. Why?

“There is no meaningful evidence that justifies expanding TRIA to cover group life insurance,” Hunter said. “CFA has not received a single complaint from a consumer or business indicating that there is a problem in the life insurance market.”

Hunter even has the nerve to use the NAIC–an organization that is a constant target of his diatribes–in support of his contention against group life in TRIA.

This man is dangerous and without shame. He should just shut up.

Steve Piontek

Editor-in-Chief

“I tend to tune out people who are as predictable in their responses as the characters that come out of the door of an elaborate Swiss clock. I wish congressional committees would feel the same way and stop inviting Hunter to deliver his foregone conclusions about the insurance business as the voice of the consumer.”