State insurance commissioners expect to talk about federal regulation of insurance, international regulatory issues, the effects of Katrina and the new Medicare prescription drug program this weekend at their annual Commissioners’ Conference.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo., has scheduled the 4-day event to start Feb. 5 in Naples, Fla.

NAIC President Al Iuppa, the Maine insurance superintendent, says Emil Henry, the assistant secretary for financial institutions at the U.S. Treasury Department, will attend the conference to talk about efforts to create an “optional federal charter.”

Proponents say the proposal would give insurers the same kind of choice that banks now have – to be supervised by state regulators or a federal agency.

State regulators say the OFC proposal is not necessary and is not a good idea.

Even though proponents are calling the proposed federal charter optional, “we don’t think of it as an optional federal charter,” Iuppa says. “We think of it as a federal charter.”

Iuppa points to the NAIC’s effort to set up an Interstate Compact as evidence of the effectiveness of state insurance regulation.

The NAIC already has recruited 20 of the 26 states needed to put the compact into effect, and it is very likely that the other 6 states needed will sign on this year, Iuppa says.

The NAIC staff is drawing up plans to implement the compact, by designing a compact operation that will be ready to start up in offices in Washington at the flip of a switch, Iuppa says.

Iuppa says he also expects commissioners to discuss the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and efforts to develop a national disaster plan.

Regulators from Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom will be attending the conference, and sessions will include a discussion of international insurance regulation, Iuppa says.

Panelists at one session will talk about the importance of the International Association of Insurance Supervisors to U.S. insurance regulators, according to NAIC Vice President Sandy Praeger, the Kansas insurance commissioner.

A Medicare Part D prescription drug program update may review some plans’ “try and fail” rules.

The rules would require participants who are taking prescription drugs to try similar drugs on their plans’ formularies before being able to get the plans to pay for the drugs the participants were taking prior to signing up for Part D coverage.

“In some cases, companies are saying that we don’t have to answer questions [from commissioners]” because it is outside of commissioners’ jurisdiction, Praeger says.

Commissioners need clear jurisdiction over Part D plans, Praeger says.