Friday, February 25, 2011

Overriding an NAIC "Veto" In Congress

It’s not often that the self-insurance/ART industry successfully pushes back against the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) on an important legislative/regulatory matter, but I am pleased to report one initial small victory.

For the past few years, I have been involved in lobbying for federal legislation that would modernize the Liability Risk Retention Act (LRRA). This legislative initiative has included three basic objectives: 1) allow risk retention groups to write commercial property coverage; 2) establish standardized corporate governance standards, and 3) create a new federal arbitration mechanism that RRGs can utilize in cases of disputes with non-domiciliary regulators.

This last objective has attracted predictable opposition from the NAIC and individual regulators warning that such federal oversight would compromise state-based regulation of insurance. This is a canard, of course, because our approach actually strengthens state regulation by allowing for the validation of decisions made by an RRG’s domiciliary regulator.

In spite of the this common sense analysis, the NAIC has demonstrated de facto veto power in Congress on getting LRRA legislation passed with an arbitration provision, blocking bill introduction last year in the Senate. Apparently, however, this veto power now has some limits.
It was recently confirmed that Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) will introduce LRRA legislation this session including the arbitration provision. This is notable because Senator Tester had resisted supporting this initiative during the last Congress in deference to home state insurance regulator Monica Lindeen who had been pressing the NAIC party line.

We are not sure why Senator Tester has chosen to change course on this, but the heavy lobbying by many of his constituents, including the Montana Captive Insurance Association (MCIA), has certainly contributed to this positive momentum.

Of course, this is just one development in a lengthy and difficult process to get the legislation passed and signed into law. But the fact that the NAIC has not been able to successfully exercise a veto at this early stage confirms that it is possible for our industry to make good things happen despite state regulator angst.

We fully expect to bump up against NAIC opposition as the congressional session continues. Stay tuned to see how the balance of power tilts.

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