Legislators expressed profound disappointment over what they maintained was a betrayal by state insurance regulators in testimony before Congress, but also spoke of forging ties that will bond both together as the possibility of federal regulation grows.
The dialogue took place during the summer meeting of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators here.
During the session billed as a dialogue between state insurance legislators and regulators, issues that arose included a discussion of testimony by state insurance regulators in Congress regarding the creation of an Office of Insurance Information as well as a more general discussion of the relations between the 2 groups.
The OII testimony was made during a June 10 hearing of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets. During that hearing, the NAIC expressed “conditional support” for an OII provided that powers granted to the OII were not expanded during the legislative process. The conditional support is dependent on any bill not impacting insurance consumers in a negative way, NAIC testimony indicated. (See NU, June 16.)
NCOIL President and state Rep. Brian Kennedy, D-Hopkinton, R.I., said that he was “baffled” by the conditional support of a bill that could pre-empt state insurance regulation.
In response, West Virginia insurance commissioner Jane Cline, and NAIC vice president, said that in order for NAIC to shape possible legislation, it had to be represented during any discussion on a bill so that it would not be “shut out of the discussion.”
Kennedy then asked if the NAIC had actually taken a vote of its full membership on the position and was told that the NAIC’s government relations leadership council had voted on it and that full membership had not voted on it.
Rep. Robert Damron, D-Frankfort, Ky., noted that many of the states’ insurance commissioners were “a little surprised” by the NAIC’s position.
“I felt sold out,” said North Dakota Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, N.D. “I’m not looking for a seat at the table.” He said that if state legislators and regulators are going to oppose federal oversight, then a clear position has to be taken. “If we’re going to have a federal charter, then let them have it. Let them take the calls you take. Let’s go all the way or let’s maintain state control.”
And, Keiser continued, “I hope in the future that we can work as partners. No one is well served by fighting.”