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Regulation and Compliance > Federal Regulation

Prognostication Time

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Well, here we are in what is generally the soggiest insurance/political news period of the entire year–that time between mid-December and the first week in January when we’re either busy trying not to put on extra weight or busy bemoaning the extra weight that we’ve put on and working up some kind of resolution to take the poundage off.

That’s why at this time of the year–when Congress is not in session and peace and joy are the watchwords of the day–there’s not much for commentators to do except opine about what they see coming down the pike.

Since Johnny Carson retired, it’s been all too easy for anyone to don the accoutrements of Karnak the Great and deliver their prognostications for the next 12 months. What’s the big deal, after all? Do you really think anybody’s going to remember–or care, for that matter–about how accurate you were in what you thought was going to happen?

So here, with apologies to Johnny for appropriating his turban, are some of my (not too serious) thoughts about the near future in and around insuranceland.

If you have been frustrated because so little came out of the last Congressional session, all I can say is ‘wait until the next one.’ Your frustration is certain to increase in what will surely come to be known as the Year of Interminable Campaigning. Similarly, if you were exhilarated by how little was accomplished in Washington, your exhilaration is going to soar.

It’s going to be a year devoted solely to posturing. When are our elected representatives (and that goes for those at both ends of Pennsylvania Ave.) going to realize that important problems can’t be put on the shelf to molder indefinitely? One hopes this will start to happen in early 2009, but don’t count on it this year.

On another front, state regulation will continue this year to fulfill one of its most important purposes–that is to say, acting as the breeding ground to fill positions in the executive suites of the very insurers they once regulated.

There’s little point here in designating 2008 as the Year of the Revolving Door, since that appellation could apply to just about any year you want.

Another thought on regulation this year: the ongoing battle between the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the National Conference of Insurance Legislators will continue to heat up. NCOIL’s new president, Brian Kennedy of Rhode Island, is a man with a cause and not bashful about letting people know. What gives his campaign some juice is that NAIC has gotten a bit too smug for its own good.

Back in Congress, the optional federal charter will continue to remain a keenly desired dream of a small number of very large insurers. This is an issue that is gaining traction so slowly that calling it “glacial” is like naming your pet snail “Speedy.”

Maybe it’s not surprising that the issue is moving so slowly–it would represent, after all, an almost cosmic change in how insurers are regulated. And after the big bang, even the cosmos took its time about evolving.

The longer the OFC debate drags out, however, the longer it means that NAIFA will have to do its version of Riverdance to continue straddling the regulatory fence. NAIFA’s current line that it does support state regulation but could support federal regulation but really supports whatever will fix the “detrimental” status quo (to quote one of its officials) is not exactly a profile in courage. Dance on, guys.

That’s it for now. This turban’s making my head sweat.


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