U.S. life insurers are saying one thing they need to keep life insurance and annuity functioning smoothly throughout the COVID-19 emergency is permission to keep their offices open.
At least some states have responded by exempting insurers from state “shelter in place” orders, and other efforts to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 by limiting how much people can interact with one another.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has explicitly included insurers in the “essential critical infrastructure” list that goes along with his “stay at home” order.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have included similar provisions in their states’ stay-at-home orders.
- California “essential critical infrastructure” resources are available here.
- Illinois “stay at home” resources are available here.
- New York state “essential services” resources are available here.
- An article about COVID-19-related special enrollment periods for individual major medical insurance is available here.
States have been implementing stay-at-home orders in an effort to slow quickly people get COVID-19, to give manufacturers enough time to equip doctors and hospitals with an adequate supply of masks, gloves, test kits, drugs, ventilators, and other medical supplies, and to keep a suddeny rush of critically ill patients from overwhelming the medical workforce.
The typical stay-at-home order has forced businesses such as hair salons, movie theaters and eat-in restaurant dining rooms to close but has let businesses such as grocery stores, takeout restaurants and drug stores to stay open.
The View From the ACLI
Susan Neely, the president of the American Council of Life Insurers, called Friday for all state and federal agencies to include similar provisions for insurance company operations in any restrictions on business operations.
Neely talked about life insurers’ need for inclusion on “essential infrastructure” lists in a presentation she made to members of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), through a teleconferencing system.
The NAIC — a group for state insurance regulators — canceled its in-person spring meeting, which was supposed to have started Saturday, in Phoenix , due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The session held Friday was part of the effort to move the NAIC meeting onto telephone- and web-based systems.
Neely said U.S. life insurers have the financial strength and the operational strength to meet their obligations.
“Each and every day insurers work with policyholders who are asking for accommodations due to natural disasters or unforeseen developments, and the coronavirus pandemic is no exception,” Neely said.
But, to provide the best possible service for policyholders, life insurers do need help from state insurance regulators with getting exemptions from the stay-at-home orders, Neely Said.
“State insurance commissioners are our best advocates in making sure insurance is deemed essential,” Neely said, according to a prepared version of her remarks. “The [U.S.] Department of Homeland Security deems financial services institutions as essential to the well-being of our country, and any emergency directives in the states should reflect as such.”
Neely thanked California and New York for recognizing insurance as an essential service.
Health Insurers’ View
America’s Health insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association have come together to make a similar plea on behalf of health insurers, and on behalf of all of the workers and vendors that help manage health plans.