It is no secret that I have had a bone to pick with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for some time now. I find the group to be highly contradictory: it says it is a private trade association until it pretends to be a government agency, and it says it is non-profit while earning millions of dollars selling database access that really ought to be free to the public. Last year, we discovered that in the NAIC’s 2012 budget, there was a proposal for $177,800 to secure a “celebrity spokesperson” as part of the group’s ongoing consumer education effort, better known as InsureU.
Going by a recent NAIC press release, that celebrity spokesperson is Grammy-award-winning singer/songwriter Amy Grant. Grant, if you’re unfamiliar with her, is the “Queen of Christian Pop” and has had a huge musical career. From 1977 to 1991, she enjoyed a steadily growing career in the gospel and Christian pop recording industries. In 1991, her album Heart in Motion achieved crossover success with hit singles such as “Baby, Baby” and “Every Heartbeat,” which peaked at Nos. 1 and 2 respectively on the Billboard Top 100. Since then, she has remained on the radar and in 2002, she returned to the Gospel world, she was awarded a Hollywood star in 2005 for her contributions to the entertainment industry, and to this day she continues to enjoy great success.
Grant is the perfect kind of recording star to represent the insurance industry, with a wholesome kind of image nobody can really be turned off by (except, perhaps for those in the Christian community who have long criticized Grant for being “too sexy” or for getting divorced in 1999). And she has a personal story to tell about how she and her sister had a personal need for the kinds of products and services the life industry has to offer at a time when they needed them most. They also needed to know how to make informed choices for themselves, which is what InsureU is all about: providing consumers with the information they need to make smart insurance-buying decisions.
This is all well and good…except this is not what the NAIC should be doing.
“Through the NAIC, state insurance regulators establish standards and best practices, conduct peer review, and coordinate their regulatory oversight.” That’s from the NAIC website and its Amy Grant press release. And what it translates to is: ensuring a high standards of consumer protection by coordinating regulatory efforts among the otherwise patchwork quilt of regulatory regimes ths insurance industry must face in this country.