The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has announced it will support legislation creating an Office of Insurance Information within the Treasury Department.
The NAIC made its announcement late Thursday after winning concessions from bill sponsors that would significantly pare back the new agency’s ability to preempt state insurance laws.
The bill is H.R. 5840, the Insurance Information Act of 2008.
In a related move, the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, Troy, N.Y., expressed its continuing concern that the OII bill would be a first step in establishing an optional Federal charter. It expressed its reservations in a letter to be delivered today to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and all members of the House. The group sent a similar letter last month to Senate members.
According to an industry lawyer familiar with the latest draft, the bill would allow the OII to become a federal insurance information clearinghouse and a lead resource for negotiating trade agreements with foreign nations.
And it would still allow preemption of any state law that discriminates against foreign insurers, if the law conflicts with an international agreement, according to the lawyer.
If enacted, the bill would be an historic step in that it involves the federal government in insurance regulation for the first time, the lawyer said.
The NAIC letter clears the way for prompt House action on the bill, probably at midweek, under expedited rules.
Its letter also made clear, however, that the NAIC would fight any further federal encroachment into insurance regulation.
“To be clear, we view the preemptive aspects of this legislation, however narrow, with extreme caution and skepticism,” the letter said.
“We continue to believe that the federal government should not be in the business of regulating insurance, and we will continue to unequivocally reject any effort to use this or other legislation as a justification for further federal involvement,” it added.
The letter also noted that support amongst the commissioners was “not unanimous.” It was signed by 5 state commissioners, including the current and incoming president of the NAIC.
The NAIC’s decision to endorse the bill came after weeks of talks it held with Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., primary sponsor of the bill and chairman of the Capital Markets Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee.
The Senate Banking Committee is considering the measure, and industry lobbyists privately say action in the Senate on all pending insurance legislation could take place as late as the week of Sept. 26, just before the targeted adjournment of Congress for this year.
In its letter, the NAIC agreed to the following changes:
o Clarifying that an inconsistent state insurance measure would be preempted only to the extent the measure treats a non-U.S. insurer more or less favorably than a U.S. insurer.