Available and affordable health care surfaced as the number one concern among regulators and legislators organizing their “to do” list for 2007. State insurance commissioners in Arkansas, New Hampshire and West Virginia interviewed by National Underwriter, as well as a state legislator in Rhode Island and member of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, all put expanding health care coverage at the top of their efforts in the coming year.
“Like many other states, we are challenged by the number of uninsured for health coverage,” said Jane Cline, West Virginia commissioner, explaining why it will be a priority in 2007. Affordability issues continue to be a challenge, she added. Cline was elected NAIC secretary-treasurer during the winter meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
There are several “serious issues” that Arkansas is addressing, said Julie Benafield Bowman, Arkansas commissioner. Among the health issues on the department’s radar, said Benafield Bowman, are the Medicare Part “D” prescription drug program and, more generally, access to health insurance for Arkansas consumers.
State Rep. Brian Kennedy, D-38th District, R.I., said that as a legislator one of the biggest issues both in his state and at NCOIL is the availability of health insurance. Kennedy says his state is watching to see how a new plan in Massachusetts designed to expand health care coverage will work. It is important to develop an innovative new approach, said Kennedy, because “the whole issue of health insurance is such a burden on our constituents and on the insurance industry.”
If the Massachusetts plan proves viable and can be rolled out in other states, Rhode Island and NCOIL will look at it, he added.
NCOIL Executive Director Susan Nolan said that among the issues NCOIL would be tracking in 2007 are life insurance contracts that are sold solely for the purpose of resale at a later point. NCOIL will be looking at the NAIC Viatical Settlement Model Act as well as considering whether it should develop its own model, according to Nolan.
Another issue NCOIL will be looking at in the coming year, said Nolan, is transparency between doctors and providers such as HMOs and whether an agreement between a doctor and an HMO should be disclosed to a third party. How equity-indexed annuities should be regulated will also be discussed, Nolan said.
New NAIC President Walter Bell said in a statement that he would advance efforts to enhance regulatory modernization and provide national uniformity through programs such as SERFF, the NAIC’s electronic rate and form filing system, and the Interstate Compact Commission.
NAIC Vice President Roger Sevigny, New Hampshire commissioner, said that in his state the expansion of health insurance coverage will be a priority, and at the NAIC, the Interstate Insurance Product Regulation Commission is “the number one priority” and needs to continue moving forward as quickly as possible with the addition of states that are not already members.
Sevigny also cited greater uniformity through producer licensing and market conduct analysis as issues that need to be advanced in 2007.
Market conduct analysis is also an issue important to Washington Commissioner Mike Kreidler. In fact, Kreidler said he plans to introduce legislation on the issue in his state during the next legislative session. Another effort at the state level will be the introduction of the Producer Licensing Model Act, he said. These efforts will help to create greater uniformity, he added.
Kriedler also said he believes that the compact is an important issue. However, he added, “I’m a little nervous that in the rush to get it up and working, there could be compromises that would discourage larger states from participating.”
Diane Koken, Pennsylvania insurance commissioner and former NAIC president, also cited the compact as a priority, along with finding new ways for state insurance departments to build both uniformity and collaboration among the states.
Susan Voss, Iowa insurance commissioner, agreed that collaborative action among states really is important, as is building on the market conduct annual statement and best practices for the market. Additionally, she said it is important to find a balance between making sure companies are strong and solvent, and making sure consumers are protected. At times, she noted, it can be “a Solomon-like task.” She said on market conduct matters, efforts would be made to focus on 2 or 3 areas in 2007 rather than scattering efforts over a number of market conduct projects.
Nevada Commissioner Alice Molasky-Arman said in 2007 she would continue efforts to make sure consumers have access to legitimate health plans and that action has been taken against fraudulent plans.