Connolly column on state regulation touched a nerve
To The Editor: We agree with one aspect of Jim Connolly’s recent column, “Making the Case,” in the Oct. 10 issue: nothing focuses the mind more keenly on the debate over state versus federal control of insurance regulation than disasters of Katrina and Rita’s magnitude. However, the reasons for supporting insurance regulatory reform and the federal role an Optional Federal Charter contemplates go well beyond the occurrence and severity of natural disasters.
For example, the states’ response to these disasters does not demonstrate a resolution to solving:
==inconsistent and inefficient regulation;
==statutory barriers to product introduction and innovation;
==government rate regulation;
==inconsistent and duplicative market conduct regulation;
==conflicting agent licensing and continuing education requirements; and,
==the lack of a federal insurance administrator to represent financial/regulatory interests on a global basis.
In June of this year, more than 135 banks, insurance agencies and insurance companies signed a letter urging the Banking Committee of the U.S. Senate to study an Optional Federal Charter proposal. If states had solved the problems listed above in the 130 years during which they said they were trying, the movement to compel states to share insurance regulatory duties with the federal government would not be as strong as it is.
Which brings us to Mr. Connolly’s thesis: While state insurance regulators in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas should be praised for their tireless efforts in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, suggesting, as Mr. Connolly does, that an optional federal charter should be abandoned because of their efforts misses the point. These regulators did a fine job administering their own state’s laws, but the fact remains that their own laws are a maze of disparate state insurance regulations.
Efforts at uniformity and consistency are further frustrated by overzealous state attorneys general who intercede through the courts in an attempt to undermine contractual provisions approved by the state insurance department. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s lawsuit is just the most recent example of this problem–a problem that may seem counterintuitive to most observers but one that is part of the dysfunctional system in which insurers are forced to operate.
Perhaps a single set of federal insurance regulations can help to address the issue of restoring capacity in personal lines products in the Gulf Coast states. Louisiana State Representative Shirley Bowler, who Mr. Connolly cites in his editorial, thinks having an Optional Federal Charter in place would encourage more companies to write insurance in her state now that the true risks to life and limb are known.
We think she is right on the mark.
J. Kevin A. McKechnie
Government Relations Director
American Bankers Insurance Association
Executive Vice President, General Counsel
American Council of Life Insurers
Leigh Ann Pusey