House Panel Set To Move On Insurance Office Bill

Jul 3, 2008

National Underwriter--July 2, 2008


The Capital Markets Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee has tentatively scheduled action for July 9 on legislation that would create an Office of Insurance Information within the Treasury Department.

The subcommittee is also weighing whether to process bills at the same time that would allow risk retention groups to sell property insurance and reestablish the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers, according to several insurance industry lobbyists.

Congress is taking its July 4th recess this week, but will resume work Monday. Because this is a presidential election year, Congress is expected to take off the entire month of August, hold a brief session in September, and not resume work until after the November election.

It is unclear at this time whether the insurance legislation taken up by the subcommittee will then be taken up by the full committee, or go directly to the House floor.

Companion legislation in the Senate for any of the bills that could be taken up next week does not exist at this time.

The Insurance Information Act, or H.R. 5840, would establish an Insurance Information Office within the Treasury Department to provide needed expertise to the federal government on insurance issues and work with the U.S. Trade Representatives in dealing with other countries.

It was introduced in the House April 14 by Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., chairman of the Capital Markets Subcommittee. A substitute to the bill as an amendment is expected to be introduced.

The substitute is expected to clarify limits to the OII”s authority to preempt state regulation, as well as mandate that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ data and resources be used by OII staff.

The amendment is also expected to add a representative of the Federal Trade Commission to the advisory board that would be established to help the OII office do its work.

Officials of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies confirmed that the markup of the OII bill had been tentatively scheduled by the committee.

But NAMIC spokesperson Nancy Grover said her organization wants to see the final draft of the legislation before determining whether it can support it.

“We’ve been working with Chairman Kanjorski’s office, and we appreciate the hard work by members of the subcommittee to address our concerns about the bill,” Ms. Grover said.

“Our remaining concerns include the collection of data—such as annual financial statements and market conduct information—and the preemptive authority of the office,” she added.

The Increasing Insurance Coverage Options for Consumers Act of 2008, H.R. 5792, would allow risk retention groups to offer property insurance. The groups are currently limited to liability coverage. It would also beef up corporate governance mandates for risk retention groups.

The National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers Reform Act of 2008, H.R. 5611, would establish producer licensing on a national basis. The bill provides for one-stop nonresident licensing by establishing NARAB as a private, nonprofit entity managed by a board composed of state insurance regulators and marketplace representatives.

The bill does not set NARAB membership standards—such as for personal qualifications, education, training and experience—leaving that to the NARAB board, which has to “consider” the highest standards in place in the states.