The head of the Group Life Coalition is attacking a new effort by the Consumer Federation of America to keep Congress from adding group life insurance to the federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.[@@]

Robert Hunter, insurance director at the CFA, Washington, and Travis Plunkett, the group’s legislative director, wrote to Senate leaders earlier this week to remind them of the CFA’s longstanding opposition to extending or expanding the TRIA program.

Hunter, the former Texas insurance commissioner, and Plunkett write that they believe the group life market is doing fine without TRIA.

“Apparently, Bob Hunter thinks it’s more important to insure bricks and mortar than boys and girls,” says Philmore Anderson, executive director of the Group Life Coalition, Washington, and founding partner of D.C. Navigators, Washington, a lobbying group. “Including group life in TRIA is about protecting the financial security of people, in addition to inanimate objects like buildings,”

TRIA is scheduled to expire Dec. 31, and the Bush administration has suggested that it would like to narrow the scope of the program.

The Senate seems likely to support the Bush administration.

In the House, however, industry lobbyists believe there is strong bipartisan support for including group life in TRIA.

If Congress continues to leave group life out of TRIA, “then the federal government will be making a value judgment that few will understand, because this critical employee benefit for 160 million working Americans is adversely impacted by market consolidation and availability problems, to say nothing of the consequences after an attack of potential unpaid claims because there is no reinsurance backing up group life companies,” Anderson says..

If the government extends TRIA without adding group life and a huge terrorist attack occurs, “the federal government will be writing checks…to victims and will not get a cent back,” Anderson says.

If, on the other hand, TRIA includes group life, then life insurers will pay claims and any government assistance will be paid back in full, Anderson says.

“Just what are we supposed to be protecting, anyway?” Anderson asks. “Last time I checked, a crushed brick didn’t leave behind a mortgage to pay or have to put food on the table.”

Anderson argues that federal reinsurance for the workers’ compensation has shown that government reinsurance support can help revive the private market.