WASHINGTON BUREAU — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services may get the authority to handle long term care insurance issues — and could possibly get to study the idea of a federal role in LTC insurance regulation.
The conference committee responsible for reconciling the House and Senate versions of H.R. 4173 – the big financial services bill – agreed Tuesday to add an LTC insurance amendment to Title V of the bill.
The amendment would affect the scope of the authority of a Federal Insurance Office that would be created at the U.S. Treasury Department.
The amendment would give HHS the authority to handle stand-alone LTC insurance products as well as health insurance products, and the authority to work with the proposed FIO to coordinate work on the LTC features included in life and annuity products. If the FIO ends up with the authority to look for gaps in the current state-based U.S. insurance regulatory system and recommend changes, HHS might get parallel authority to study a variety of health insurance and LTC insurance issues, including regulation of health and LTC products.
The “base conference text” version of the FIO provision would give the FIO the authority to identify “issues or gaps in the regulation” in the insurance sectors it oversees that could contribute to financial-system-threatening problems, and the Treasury secretary could assign the office additional responsibilities.
The HHS LTC jurisdiction amendment was proposed by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Conferees approved the amendment by a voice vote.
Waxman says HHS “is the primary agency with expertise and experience in the area of long term care” and should take the lead in studying LTC insurance issues.
The FIO and HHS should work together to develop “the best recommendations and advice for the future of these types of products,” Waxman says.
By putting responsibility for LTC insurance products in the hands of HHS officials, the LTC amendment would give the House Energy and Commerce Committee a chance to get involved with studies of issues related to LTC products.
The conference committee is continuing to work on H.R. 4173 today, but it is putting off final action on Title V while congressional staffers propose compromises on sections of the title other than the LTC jurisdiction provision.
Jack Dolan, a staffer at the American Council of Life Insurers, Washington, says lawmakers seem to be confusing LTC insurance with health insurance.
“The amendment demonstrates the lack of knowledge on the Hill of our products,” Dolan says.
Earlier versions of this article described the proposed role of HHS in connection with LTC insurance incorrectly. The Waxman amendment would give HHS, rather than the proposed Federal Insurance Office, the authority to handle LTC insurance issues in general; the amendment does not explicitly state whether HHS would conduct studies and does not indicate whether HHS would look at LTC insurance jurisdiction matters. We regret the error.
AMENDMENT TO HOUSE OFFER FOR TITLE V OFFERED BY MR. WAXMAN OF CALIFORNIA
On page 2 of the House Offer, strike the instruction relating to page 475, lines 17 and 18 of the Conference Base Text, and insert the following:
Page 475, strike lines 16 through 21 and insert the following: