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House TRIA Bill May Include Group Life

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Majority staff members at the House Financial Services Committee are likely to include group life in the Republican version of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act extension bill, insurance industry lobbyists say.[@@]

The current version of TRIA is set to expire Dec. 31, and several lobbyists interviewed say proposals for extending TRIA could emerge from the House Financial Services Committee as early as next week.

Because of Bush administration skepticism about federal involvement in terrorism insurance, majority staff members may try to narrow the scope of the TRIA program, by increasing retention levels and removing lines such as commercial automobile liability insurance and general liability insurance. Lobbyists have dubbed the proposals for bills that would create slimmed-down versions of the TRIA program “TRIA Lite.”

Meanwhile, on the group life side, “the Group Life Coalition has done an outstanding political job of conveying to members of Congress that, if the government decides to provide a backstop for buildings, it should provide a backstop for people as well,” says Joel Wood, a senior vice president at the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, Washington.

Some Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee want to extend TRIA with a bill that would continue a narrower version of the current program for at least 2 more years, but others want to create a private pool for sharing terrorism risk.

Many House Democrats want to add group life to the current version of TRIA, then put TRIA plus group life in effect for 2 years while members of Congress work on developing a bipartisan plan.

Although property-casualty insurance groups have supported efforts to include group life in a TRIA extension bill, one p-c company lobbyist who requested anonymity calls the possibility that Congress might add group life while reducing the scope of commercial coverage “an absurdity.”

“There is no affordability or availability issue with group life, but there is with general liability,” the lobbyist says.