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NAIC May Expand Scope Of Suitability Rules

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Life insurers are wary of state insurance regulators’ plans to rewrite provisions of a key annuity sales model regulation.

The Senior Protection in Annuity Transaction model regulation, adopted in 2003 by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo., currently covers the suitability of sales of annuities only to persons age 65 and older.

During a recent meeting sponsored by the American Council of Life Insurers, Washington, Jim Poolman, North Dakota insurance commissioner, said the NAIC should expand protections of the model to all ages, not just consumers over age 65.

Poolman said his office fields many annuity sales complaints. Companies have set up systems to monitor annuity sales for consumers over age 65, so it would not be difficult to expand those systems to protect all consumers, he added.

The information available to date suggests that the primary focus must be concern for senior citizens, but the ACLI recognizes that both state and federal regulators feel that the matter needs to be examined further., according to Linda Lanam, an ACLI vice president.

“We want to be sensitive to the need to protect all consumers,” Lanam said. “ACLI has committed to taking the issue to its membership. We will have a direct response in the relatively near future.”

The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Falls Church, Va., issued a statement questioning whether many young annuity purchasers are having problems.

“NAIFA supports the special protections for seniors in the NAIC’s Senior Protection in Annuities Transactions model regulation because there was perceived to be abuses that warranted special attention,” NAIFA says. “However, at this point it is not clear to NAIFA that a problem in the under-65 marketplace has been demonstrated.”

NAIFA said it would wait to see a formal proposal before commenting further.

Birny Birnbaum, executive director of the Center for Economic Justice, Austin, Texas, says the CEJ would support the idea of expanding the scope of the suitability model. When the model was originally being developed, the CEJ had argued that protections should be offered to all consumers and not just seniors, Birnbaum says.

“It makes sense that if a model is offering certain consumer protections to one group, it would not just benefit some consumers, but all consumers,” Birnbaum says.

When a model is reopened, it is important to see how the changes may affect all products, says Scott Cipinko, of counsel with Lord Bissell Brook, which represents the Life Insurers Council, Atlanta.

Under the current model, annuities sold for pre-need contracts are exempted from the model in most states, Cipinko said.