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House Puts Group Life Back Into Terrorism Risk Bill

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House Democrats have decided to pass a revised terrorism risk insurance program bill that will include a group life provision and some other provisions left out of the stripped-down Senate terrorism risk program bill.

The House also is putting in a provision that would limit insurers’ ability to deny coverage to applicants based on applicants’ travel plans.

The Bush administration says President Bush may veto a bill that expands terrorism risk protection to include group life, because the group life market has been functioning well without help from the existing terrrorism risk program.

But group life is the only life insurance protection that many Americans have, and the group life industry needs terrorism risk protection, according to the bill text.

The “industry, in the event of a severe act of terrorism, is vulnerable to insolvency because high concentrations of covered employees work in the same locations, because primary group life insurers do not exclude terrorism risks while most catastrophic reinsurance does exclude such risks, and because a large-scale loss of life would fall outside of actuarial expectations of death,” according to the bill text.

The House Rules Committee today cleared the revised version of the bill for floor debate sometime next week.

In many cases, the Senate and the House form “conference committees” to iron out differences between their versions of bills.

In this case, the Senate has declined to participate in a conference committee.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, says he decided to push ahead with efforts to pass a bill that is similar to the Senate version but somewhat longer because of frustration with the Senate’s lack of interest in a compromise.

“We took some of their provisions, and we think some of the provisions in our bill also deserve consideration,” Frank said

The new House bill would drop a provision that would have protected insurers against attacks involving weapons of mass destruction and it will accept the Senate’s proposal for a 7-year bill time limit. The House passed a bill with a 15-year program lifespan.

The law that now governs the terrorism risk program, Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act, is set to expire Dec. 31.

“The process still isn’t over, but we are pleased that group life is still on the table,” says Steven Brostoff, a spokesman for the American Council of Life Insurers, Washington.


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