Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New NAIC Officers Take The Helm

San Francisco
Following an uncontested election by the full body of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo., the newly elected 2010 officers spoke on some of the critical issues the NAIC and state-based regulation face.

The new officers are:
• President: West Virginia Insurance Commissioner Jane Cline
• President-Elect: Iowa Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss
• Vice President: Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty; and,
• Secretary-Treasurer: Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland.

Cline said that a top priority will be to follow closely what is going on in the Washington health care debate and to be responsive in any manner that facilitates that discussion.

Preserving state-based regulation will be a key part of the work in 2010 whether it is the National Insurance Supervisory Commission or any other proposal, she added. As regulatory modernization ideas surface, Cline says that “constructive dialogue with all stakeholders” will be an important part of any work at the NAIC.

The NAIC’s Holland added that the NAIC will be focused on speed-to-market initiatives and enhancing consumer protections. Holland calls NISC a draft document, adding that it is simply one way in which regulators can meet their obligation to continue to look for ways to improve state-based regulation.

And, President Cline said that she intends to reach out to all state officials including governors and state Rep. Robert Damron, D-Nicholasville, Ky., the newly elected president of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, Troy, N.Y. During the meeting here, NCOIL challenged the NAIC’s NISC effort and warned the NAIC not to make a deal to embed provisions in federal regulation to set itself up as a defacto federal lawmaker. The NAIC’s Holland acknowledged that “people have strong opinions” and said that the task at hand is to “take ample opportunity to find common good.”

The best consumer protection, Holland continued, is to balance consumer rights with a strong insurance market that provides consumers with choice. She said that her “objective is fairness.” Health care will be part of that choice and “regardless of what bill passes, will require dramatic responses from states.” Consequently, Holland said, it is important to prepare leaders in the states and within insurance departments for these changes. Toward, that end, according to Holland, the NAIC has been working with the Department of Health and Human Services.

And, in terms of providing consumers with information, “market regulation is where the rubber meets the road,” Holland continued.

Cline reiterated that “first and foremost, my efforts will be to ensure consumer protections. She stated that it is a balancing act because if restrictions are “too costly or cumbersome,” the insurance market, and consequently, consumer choice, will be diminished.

And, when asked about the “continual drumbeat” from consumers who believe that regulators side too frequently with insurers, Holland responded that “We appreciate any drumbeat. It doesn’t allow us to get complacent. It doesn’t hurt to be reminded… [that we are pressing for consumer protections.]”

The NAIC’s Voss, discussed potential changes regarding suitability of annuities and other insurance products, noting that the NAIC is developing a good relation with FINRA, Washington. And, following the Old Mutual decision, there is further work being done to make changes to Rule 151A developed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Washington, she added.

On amendments to the Suitability in Annuity Transactions Model Regulation, Voss said that she believes that consumer representatives are supportive of the effort. She added that the industry must realize that eventually it is accountable for the sale of a product. Voss said that she believes the model is close to broad acceptance by many parties.

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