SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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WORKING WITH STATE REGULATORS TO
INCREASE INSURANCE CHOICES FOR CONSUMERS
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
U.S. House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and,
Government Sponsored Enterprises
Committee on Financial Services,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:07 a.m., in Room 2128, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Richard Baker [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Baker, Ose, Shays, Gillmor, Bachus, Castle, Royce, Oxley (ex officio), Kelly, Shadegg, Ryun, Biggert, Miller of California, Hart, Kennedy, Tiberi, Renzi, Hensarling, Kanjorski, Sherman, Inslee, Ford, Frank (ex officio), Lucas of Kentucky, Clay, McCarthy, Baca, Emanuel and Scott. Also present were Representatives Hensarling, Maloney and Pomeroy.
Chairman BAKER. [Presiding.] I would like to call this meeting of the Capital Markets Subcommittee to order.
Today, the committee meets to hear testimony with regard to the continuing effort of the committee to provide regulatory relief for consumers and the insurance industry in providing services to consumers. As the committee has conducted now 14 meetings in the past 2 years on this subject, there really is little need for a lengthy introduction of the subject matter to committee members.
It is clearand I think all parties affected agreethat some changes are not only in order but necessary. And the difficulty is in reaching the level of change that should be suggested to ensure market stability and additional choices for consumers.
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is very clear, at least to me, that as the regulatory structure becomes less burdensome and complicated, there are more providers of product, there is more competition in the relevant market and consumers win by paying lower prices by having many choices. Where we find the reverse structure, there are limited numbers of providers, premiums generally are higher and consumers lose.
This is a mission which all on the committee agree has to be undertaken. And we wish to go as far as we reasonably can go in providing a streamlined market structure that enables it to work effectively.
What has concerned me, to a great extent, in reviewing the financials of this sector of the financial marketplace, the industry does not enjoy a very comparable return on equity, as contrasted with others in the financial marketplace. To some, that would seem to indicate victory in regulating the industry. I look at it slightly differently.
I know that without adequate capital and resources, you cannot provide the needed services. And our economy suffers.
Where the most competitive insurance product is not made available, that ultimately costs us all in lost opportunity. I do believe that Chairman Oxley has directed and we have worked hard to provide a list of recommended reforms which we hope the various stakeholders will find to be warranted and necessary.
Today, we will receive comment from various perspectives on the advisability of moving legislatively in this direction and to receive any recommendations or modifications that may be deemed advisable in light of the current market structure. I am appreciative for those who are here today and willing to participate and want to express my appreciation to all who have worked with the committee over the past months in coming to this hearing today.
This could well be our last hearing before the committee considers adoption of legislation.
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With that, I would like to call on the ranking member, Mr. Kanjorski, for his opening statement.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you for the opportunity to offer my thoughts about regulatory reform in the insurance industry before we hear from our distinguished witnesses.
First and foremost, I commend you for continuing to focus our committee on issues of insurance regulation. During the last 3 years, our panel has met on multiple occasions to discuss a wide variety of issues related to the insurance industry.
As a result of these proceedings, we have developed a better understanding of the insurance marketplace. We have additionally begun to form a growing consensus in the Congress about the need to improve insurance regulation in the United States.
In the attempt to advance these efforts, Mr. Chairman, you also recently developed an initial outline for achieving incremental regulatory reform in the insurance industry. This evolving proposal has already sparked considerable debate in the insurance community.
Although it merits receiving our collective attention, I suspect that we will eventually conclude that this reform plan to impose a new federal bureaucratic network over an existing state regulatory structure will produce unintended consequences. Later today, for example, one of our witnesses will detail the shortcomings of this outline, with respect to the protection of consumers and the needs of small businesses.
By inserting the federal government into insurance regulation, this plan will also almost certainly create new unfunded liabilities for our country. Additionally, I suspect that many will conclude that this initial proposal falls considerably short of achieving permanent and genuine reform in the insurance industry.
The outline under consideration today, for instance, envisions a weak federal coordinator with little enforcement authority. Calling for greater uniformity in insurance regulation, but then giving a new federal overseer limited powers, is much like watching an old man trying to eat an apple after removing his false teeth.
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Some have also suggested that the federal regulatory presence envisioned by this proposal could do more to confuse, rather than clarify, regulatory responsibilities. During our previous hearings on insurance reform, we have received extensive testimony from many witnesses advocating the creation of an optional federal charter.
Although the plan before us today does not address this important issue, the consensus for creating an optional federal charter continues to grow. Earlier this year, for instance, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors decided to embrace certain federal initiatives that would work to improve the regulation of insurance, including the development of an optional federal charter.
A study released earlier this week also advanced the idea of creating an optional federal charter. The reform package under consideration today would create a system of joint regulation between the federal and state governments.
Rather than overlaying a federal bureaucracy on top of the State regulation, an optional federal charter would create a separate, streamlined regulatory system. Such dual oversight has worked generally well for the banking industry for many decades. And we should now consider applying it to the insurance industry as well.
Moreover, because of its standardized products in a nationwide marketplace, the life insurance industry, in my view, is particularly ready for the adoption of an optional federal charter.
Mr. Chairman, the devilas we often sayis in the details. Because much of the proposed regulatory reform outline is currently conceptual, it is difficult this time to anticipate how the legislative language would actually work.
Despite my initial doubts, I want you to know that I am approaching today's hearing with an open mind because I share your goals of making insurance regulation more efficient, uniform and effective for consumers.
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In closing, Mr. Chairman, we have reached a fork in the road and must decide which path to take. Ultimately, we might decide to modify and adopt this concession plan before the 108th Congress completes its work.
We might alternatively decide to create a commission to study these matters. We might also decide to begin the considerable work needed to create an optional federal chartering system in a future session.
These are important discussions for us to have and important matters for us to resolve. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Hon. Paul E. Kanjorski can be found on page 78 in the appendix.]
Chairman BAKER. Thank the gentleman.
Mr. OXLEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me begin by thanking you and Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee Chairman Sue Kelly for holding, between the both of you, 14 hearings and roundtables over the last 3 years on the need for insurance reform.
Your hard work and commitment to increasing competition and effective oversight for insurance consumers created the foundation we are building on today.
In addition, I want to recognize one of the real leaders of our time: our first witness and president of NAIC, Ernie Csiszar. President Csiszar has served with bipartisan distinction for both Democrat and Republican governors in South Carolina. And he has worked closely with our committee in forging some central goals and concepts for improving insurance regulation.
Too often, the legislative process gets bogged down in turf protection, partisanship and political conflict avoidance. Rare is the leader who can overcome self-interest in the status quo and help create the opportunity for change to achieve a greater good.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I also want to thank New York Commissioner Greg Serio and past NAIC President Mike Pickens, who have also been of enormous assistance in working together to build a foundation for a consensus, middle-ground approach to reforming insurance regulation.
All three leaders have been steadfast advocates of retaining the strengths of State-based insurance oversight and have helped us think through alternatives to federal regulation as we forge a path towards uniformity.
And Mr. Chairman, I would also like to recognize our former colleague, Mike Kreidler, who of course is the insurance commissioner now in the State of Washington. And it is good to have you back here in Washington, Mike.
Achieving uniformity will not be easy. At the first meeting of the NAIC, the New York insurance commissioner and founder of the NAIC, George W. Miller, stated, ''The commissioners are now fully prepared to go before their various legislative committees with recommendations for a system of insurance law which shall be the same in all statesnot reciprocal, but identical; not retaliatory, but uniform.''
That, Mr. Chairman, was in 1871, 6 years after the Civil War ended. And since then, the NAIC has testified before this committee and its predecessors numerous times that we are almost there, that new programs have been developed, new models agreed to. In just a few more years, we will be closer to the illusive goal of uniformity promised back 133 years ago.
As a former state legislator and member of NCOIL, I have been one of the strongest proponents for the NAIC and its efforts. As we have demonstrated through the 14 hearings in this committee over the past 3 years and the numerous hearings held previously in the old Commerce and Banking Committees, the States cannot get the job done by themselves.
The collective action barrier to getting 56 state legislatures and regulators to act in complete unison isand will always beinsurmountable absent congressional legislation.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Representatives Kelly, Chairman Baker and other senior members of this committee and I worked together during the Gramm-Leach-Bliley legislation to establish what is now referred to as NARAB, a targeted, State-based reform proposal enacted into law that required a majority of states to adopt reciprocal or uniform licensing regulations.
NARAB has been an enormous success. And all but a handful of states have met the goal.
Agents can now become licensed and sell insurance to their customers nationwide, generally within 1 to 3 months, with greatly reduced red tap and cost. In contrast, company licensing takes a majority of the States over 6 months to review, with 17 percent of the States, according to one study, requiring more than 2 years to complete their reviews.
While the NAIC has tried to create a uniform application form and coordinated process for company licensing, without a congressional mandate, the effort suffers from incomplete participation, numerous deviations and unenforced deadlines. We can do a lot better.
The success of NARAB can be a model for bringing the States closer to fulfilling their own goals. After 3 years and 14 hearings, we need to move from oversight to building legislation.
We are just beginning this process. Chairman Baker and I have offered some goals and general concepts for reform. But these are intended to be a starting point for discussion.
We want to strongly encourage members on both sides of the aisle and our witnesses here today to fully participate and provide input in this early stage of working through a legislative approach. It will not be easy. We have a few issues, such as the role of a state-federal partnership to coordinate uniform insurance policy, that still need to be worked out.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But we have the opportunity, like President Csiszar and Commissioner Serio, to demonstrate a commitment to leadership and accomplish something meaningful and lasting for consumers. I hope that you will all join us in this effort and that we do not have to wait another 133 years.
I yield back.
[The prepared statement of Hon. Michael G. Oxley can be found on page 74 in the appendix.]
Chairman BAKER. Thank the chair for his leadership on this issue and for his continuing interest in seeing reform move forward. And the Capital Markets Subcommittee, Mr. Chairman, has actually had 14 meetings in the last couple of years. Ms. Kelly's work has been in addition to that, as well.
So the committee should be fully versed on the controversy at hand. I thank the chair for his participation.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Baker, Ranking Member Kanjorski, Chairman Oxley, I thank you for holding this important hearing today regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of state insurance regulation. I also want to thank the distinguished panel of witnesses we have before us today for your testimony on this important subject.
While I have not yet seen evidence for the need to create a federal insurance regulator, I understand that efforts to streamline insurance regulation by the States have, indeed, been slow in development. However, since Chairman Oxley and Baker have announced that they are not considering an optional federal charter in the road map for insurance regulation and modernization, I am interested in understanding what targeted areas of reform can be considered for streamlined regulation.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This committee must balance reforms between streamlined regulations for businesses with consumer protections. I believe that state insurance regulators best know how to respond to consumer complaints.
For example, in my own home state of Georgia, our insurance commissioner, John Oxendine, has helped tens of thousands of Georgia consumers address complaints about their insurance providers. These actions have resulted in over $20 million being returned to those consumers in 2003.
Consumers can call Commissioner Oxendine's Division of Consumer Services from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The commissioner also sends field representatives to each of Georgia's 159 counties at least once a month. I cannot imagine a national regulator being able to provide for a local connection or as much access to consumer advocates or investigators.
Today, I look forward to hearing from our panel about practical recommendations to earnestly begin streamlining insurance reform between the States.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman BAKER. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. SHAYS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thirty-second comments to say: one, very important hearing; two, I know you have done and others have done a tremendous amount of work on this issue.
I have an open mind about what needs to happen. But I will be looking at these types of issues. I want to see more competition and more choices.
I would like to see uniformity. I would like to see it easier to enter into the marketplace. And however that can be accomplished, I will be supportive.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman BAKER. I thank the gentleman for his statement.
Mr. LUCAS OF KENTUCKY. Mr. Chairman, let us let the hearings begin.
Chairman BAKER. Thank the gentleman very much for his astute insight.
Mrs. KELLY. I want to thank Chairman Baker for holding the hearing. The hearings that the chairman mentioned, we found many strengths and many weaknesses with the current regulatory system. So it is clear that improvements of some sort need to be made.
There are advantages to the State regulatory system. There is a regulatory expertise that currently exists at the State level. And in addition to that, the States are sometimes more responsive to the needs of the local marketplace and the local consumers.
The committee has located, though, many areas that really need improvement. One is speed to market for the new products. Market conduct reviews are sometimes exhaustive and duplicative.
Price controls are well intended, but sometimes ill-advised and reduce availability in certain markets. The states are still not able to achieve nationwide agent licensing reciprocity that we ask for in NARAB.
We are close. But we need the rest of the States into NARAB.
The insurance commissioners and companies, consumer groups, agents, brokerswe have had a lot of witnesses here. And they have all agreed that there is a need to modernize the current regulatory system.
I think we need to consider reforms to reflect the marketplace changes and allow the institutions to better serve our customers. The greater focus on improving regulation was promising when we passed Gramm-Leach-Bliley.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But the ideas have only gotten us so far. And I think the American people are in a position now where they really expect and deserve some action on our part.
It is clear that the NAIC will continue to struggle with many of the programs. Unfortunately, consumers continue to suffer because the State legislatures fail to act on the good ideas of both the NAIC and the NCOIL.
It is clear that the time has come, that we have to have some new federal legislation to help the States modernize their own insurance regulation. We need consistency. We need an ease for the people in the business to reach their customers. And we need an ease for the customers to understand what is going on.
Prior to NARAB, the States had been trying to get some kind of a reciprocity with licensing for years. And as the chairman pointed out, the insurance industry itself recommended that that happened way back in the 1870s.
So the success on NARAB is only going to come if we get all of the States in. We have to build on that model in other areas of state insurance regulation. And we have to help the NAIC get their goal of more efficient and more effective regulation.
I look forward to our witnesses today. And I commend Chairman Oxley and Subcommittee Chairman Baker for a lot of hard work and leadership on these issues.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman BAKER. I thank the gentlelady for her statement.
Mr. SHERMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As an old tax commissioner, I am thrilled that we are joined today by my distinguished friend from North Dakota, Mr. Pomeroy, a former state insurance commissioner. And if his interest in insurance is such that he would like to switch committees, we will talk.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, it seems to me that there are at least four different areas that are grouped together as insurance regulation. The first is getting a product approved so that we know that that product, contract or form is in the best interest of consumers.
The second is the safety and soundness of the company, so that those who are insured know that they will be paid. And that involves both the auditing process and setting standards.
The third is dealing with consumer complaints against an individual company, dealing with how a particular consumer is being treated.
Then the fourth, as the chairman of the full committee mentioned, is professional licensing and enforcement, dealing with the individual agents and brokers. And as the chair pointed out, that is an area where we have had some success.
It appears to me that it is only in the first category that I am told that we really have problems; and that is, getting a product to market. It will be interesting to go through these hearings and see whether there are problems in other areas.
I would hope that, whether it be a federal bureaucracy or better coordination of the State bureaucracies, that we will be able to get products to market quickly so that consumers will have the maximum choice and that choice will be relevant to their needs at the time.
I yield back.
Chairman BAKER. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Royce, did you have a statement?
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to just take a moment and commend you and also Chairman Oxley for your leadership on this issue.
Consumers, I think, of insurance products are going to benefit from more efficient regulation. And it is clear to me that the leadership of this committee is trying to help the marketplace for the better.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But I also have a parochial perspective on this. I am very deeply troubled by the insurance regulatory environment that we have in my home state of California. And I would just like to share with you, Mr. Chairman, the homeowners' insurance market as an example.
The regulatory environment in California, in my view, would make the old socialist, East Bloc, command and control planners proud. Because we have ended up in a situation in California where we have the largest marketplace in the United States. And yet, California homeowners pay some of the highest premiums in the United States.
I think our experience has been that insurance firms are more likely to leave than to expand their businesses in California. And that is because of the price control-based regulatory regime that we have there.
And this means that a bad situation in California has the potential to get worse.
Now California has the largest economy of any state. And it is frankly one of the largest economies in the world.
And I think this committee and this Congress should be deeply concerned about the negative economic effects of California's price controls, as well as their limits on new product innovation. But there is also the global perspective on this because our Byzantine insurance regulatory policy is deterring foreign capital from entering our own markets.
Effectively, if you are an overseas firm and you are looking to do business in the United States, you are not entering one market. You are entering 50 markets. And for this reason, our trade negotiators, when they go in to trade or to negotiate to open up markets overseas, they run into resistance every time they attempt to expand markets for U.S. financial services products abroad because the response is, ''Well, you have 50 markets in the United States.''
So I am a strong supporter of increasing efficiency in our insurance marketplace. I think consumers will be the greatest beneficiaries. But our economy is also going to benefit as a result of that.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And the last point I would like to make is that enforcement has to go hand-in-hand with reform; otherwise, any positive legislative package will not be implemented in a number of states.
And again, I thank the chairman for his leadership. And I yield back.
Chairman BAKER. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Emanuel, did you have a statement?
Mr. EMANUEL. I am just going to second Mr. Lucas' recommendation.
Chairman BAKER. Terrific.
Mr. Bachus? Mr. Bachus, did you have a statement, sir?
Mr. BACHUS. Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I thank you for holding this hearing. I think this is an important legislative hearing to discuss your Baker-Oxley State-based insurance regulatory concepts, to make state insurance regulation more efficient.
These proposals go a long way to expedite a variety of insurance products to consumers and lower the cost of insurance premiums for small businesses. So I commend you and Chairman Oxley.
As you know, Chairman Baker, Walter Bell, our Alabama insurance commissioner, was appointed by Commission Csiszar. And he is one of our witnesses today. He was appointed to chair the NAIC's Speed to Market Task Force.
And the task force addresses one of the major issues that you are addressing in the Oxley-Baker reform concept; and that is product approval. They have met regularly. And I believe they are making progress toward the goal of national standards in this area.
And I for one would advocate giving them the opportunity to do this and would hope that they would continue to make substantial progress.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for your commitment to try to modernize and uniform reinsurance regulation. As you know, the U.S. reinsurance industry competes on a global basis. Reinsurers are sophisticated entities. And they are disadvantaged when trying to compete on a world stage without uniform regulation across all 50 states.
I look forward to working with you on identifying areas that will allow the reinsurance community to compete more effectively on a global basis.
And lastly, I want to take the opportunity to include testimony from the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors for the record and would like to do that.
Chairman BAKER. Without objection.
[The following information can be found on page 177 in the appendix.]
Mr. BACHUS. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, again for holding the hearing. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses.
Chairman BAKER. I thank the gentleman.
Ms. McCarthy, did you have a statement?
Mrs. MCCARTHY OF NEW YORK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will hand in my statement. But I do want to welcome Mr. Serio, who originally came from West Hempstead, which is in my district, and has a great deal of respect in New York.
So I appreciate you being here. And I am looking forward to your testimony.
Chairman BAKER. Thank the gentlelady.
Mr. CASTLE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have no statement. I look forward to hearing the witnesses.
Chairman BAKER. Thank you, sir.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Inslee?
Mr. INSLEE. Just want to welcome our friend, Mike Kreidler, who has become even wiser after leaving Congress.
Chairman BAKER. Ms. Biggert, did you have a statement this morning?
Mrs. BIGGERT. Yes, thank you, Chairman Baker. And thank you for holding this series of hearings on insurance regulation. I think the thoughtful and deliberate hearings that are being held by the subcommittee will more than adequately prepare us for any future course of action that we will be taking.
I did want to thank one of my colleagues from Illinois, Dr. Phil O'Connor, for coming to testify today. He served as our Illinois insurance commissioner for 3 years and for another two as its research director.
He has a wealth of experience in this and many other policy fields. And we did work together on several commissions while I served in the Illinois General Assembly. So I am delighted that he is here.
I do want to take a moment to point out this morning that I believe the open market system for insurance in my home state of Illinois is an example of a system that works wellnot just for regulators, not just for insurers, but most importantly, for the consumer.
I understand concerns that some of my colleagues may have about a change from a prior approval to an open market system. But let's look at what this system has produced. Illinois has a very small residual market and significantly more auto and homeowners insurers competing for business than states with stringent price regulation.
Illinois attracts the largest share of operating property and casualty companies of any state in the nation. And that is good for consumers.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The premiums and loss ratios in Illinois are well below most other states with large populations, high traffic density and urban concentrations. With no rate controls, regulatory resources have been freed up in Illinois, allowing state regulators to initiate other innovative safeguards, such as early warning systems and computerized market conduct exams.
An open market system does not mean a wild or unfettered system; quite the contrary. The Illinois Department of Insurance has oversight authority and is required to monitor the marketplace and report to the General Assembly.
The department plays an important role. But it does not determine rates. Rates are driven by economic demands, not politics.
There are numerous stringent consumer protections in place as well. The benefits of an open market system have been recognized by consumers in Illinois for 30 years, which is why no one has ever tried to change the rate system.
Some of my colleagues may believe that price controls magically lower prices below competitive market levels, while at the same time stimulate an adequate supply of coverage. To me, this is just a myth.
We have seen the reality of price controls in markets like those in New Jersey. A large number of insurers pulled out of New Jersey entirely, citing the unique burdens posed by the State's auto insurance regulatory system.
A regulatory system that drives insurers out of the market is not an ideal regulatory system. An open market system like that in Illinois, in my view, is closer to the ideal.
So putting all parochial interests and personal bias aside, I can objectively state that Illinois has oneif not the mostefficient systems in the country. Illinois has delivered more choice, better prices and a stable market to consumers.
So the open market competition works in Illinois and has worked very well for 30 years. My hope is that Illinois can serve as a model for other states that want to serve consumers better.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I look forward to the testimony of Dr. O'Connor.
And thank you, Mr. Chairman. Yield back.
Chairman BAKER. I thank the gentlelady for her statement.
The committee has the pleasure today of having two ringers. On the Democrat side, we have the former insurance commissioner, obviously knowledgeable in matters of insurance and is expressing today his deep interest in the subject by attending our hearing.
Welcome, Mr. Pomeroy. Would you care to make an opening statement?
Mr. POMEROY. Mr. Chairman, thank you for allowing me to attend. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses and I will have some thoughts on this matter that I would like to share with the committee at a later time.
But I commend you and Chairman Oxley and Ranking Member Kanjorski for advancing this issue in a very thoughtful and substantive way. I remember being on the witness side of the table in the room when I thought the topic of federal regulation was being advanced in a less thoughtful way. I appreciate the way this issue is proceeding, and I thank you for allowing me to participate.
Chairman BAKER. I thank the gentleman for his interest and participation.
And on the Republican side, we have a member of Financial Services, but not on this subcommittee. We welcome the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Hensarling. Would you care to make an opening statement, sir?
Mr. HENSARLING. Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you for allowing me to attend.
The title of this hearing is ''Increasing Insurance Choices for Consumers.'' As a former student of economics and a small businessman, I understand that when we are talking about increasing choices for consumers, we must of course discuss decreasing the regulatory burden on businesses.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The best and most effective consumer protection will always be a competitive marketplace. And I believe this committee and Congress can play an important role in ensuring that American consumers have access to the most affordable and most varied insurance products available.
Now I do not trust any single company to make their products affordable and varied. And I do not trust any particular industry to make their products affordable and varied.
I do, however, trust competition in the marketplace to do just that. One only has to look at history to show the possibilities that exist by stripping away excess regulation.
When Congress decided to deregulate the airline industry in 1978, the number of cities served by more than one airline increased by 55 percent. And service was extended to more than 140 additional airports. The impact on airline travelers was estimated at $11 billion in savings.
When Congress deregulated the trucking industry in 1980, the number of carriers doubled, while rates for small shipments decreased by approximately 25 percent.
From airlines to trucking to natural gasand the list goes onhistory has shown us that deregulation can bring down real pricesby 25, 30, even 40 percent over time. Thus, history also shows us, in order to get to a point of effective competition in the insurance industry, we must carefully examine what has been inhibiting choice and driving up costs for consumers.
I believe the most important factors have been the price controls and the large, expensive regulatory burden imposed on the insurance industry by many state governments. The sooner we can move to a more competitive market-based system, where financially sound companies have low barriers of entry and are free to compete with minimal interference, the better off consumers will be.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I happen to be a homeowner from Texas, the State that the Census Bureau deemed in their last survey to have the highest average premium for homeowner's insurance in the nation. Thus, I understand the negative impact price controls can have on competition and how this can ultimately adversely affect the consumer.
My constituents in Texas are paying, on average, more than double for their homeowner's insurance than what consumers pay in states with limited or no price controls. And they frequently contact me and ask me to help do something to help them find more options for cheaper insurance products.
Recent studies have shown that consumers living in states with minimal or no price controls pay significantly less for most types of insurance than do consumers residing in states with significant price controls.
I look forward to working with you, Chairman Baker and Chairman Oxley, to address the problems that price controls and other government-imposed regulations have had on the insurance industry and the availability of affordable insurance products for consumers.
I thank the chairman and yield back.
Chairman BAKER. I thank the gentleman for his statement and for his interest in the matter and giving his time today to the committee.
Is there any member wishing a further opening statement?
If not, Mr. Kanjorski wishes recognition for a unanimous consent. Mr. Kanjorski?
Mr. KANJORSKI. Mr. Chairman, it seems like insuranceor former insurancecommissioners are falling out of the woodwork. But I would like to offer for the record a statement from the former state insurance commissioner of Nebraska and now the outstanding Senator from Nebraska, Ben Nelson, for purposes of insertion into the record.
[The following information can be found on page 187 in the appendix.]
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman BAKER. Without objection, so ordered.
I thank the gentleman.
At this time, we would wish to proceed to our distinguished panel of witnesses. I have a deep appreciation for the difficulty of the task each of you have undertaken and want to express my true appreciation for the level of work and effort committed to trying to resolve the concerns that many have outlined this morning in their opening statement.
I do believe we have made significant progress. I believe we are on the verge of adopting legislation, which all stakeholders can view as being very constructive and moving in an appropriate direction for the consumers we all serve.
Director Csiszar from the South Carolina Department of Insurance has been steadfast and continued in his leadership. I have great regard for your work.
I also want to welcome the other two gentlemen to the table this morning. Before I proceed though, I think Ms. Kelly from New York has a word she would like to offer at this time.
Mrs. KELLY. My word to offer is that it is a great pleasure to have Greg Serio back with us. He is the superintendent of insurance from the great State of New York.
Greg was confirmed as New York's 39th superintendent back on May 9, 2001. He served 6 years prior to that as first deputy superintendent and general counsel of the department for 3 years.
In addition to being a very well respected member of the NAIC where he serves in a leadership capacity, Superintendent Serio is a good friend. And we feel he is a great asset for the State of New York.
It is a pleasure to see you here today, sir. And I look forward to hearing from you.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman BAKER. Thank you, Ms. Kelly.
And also to introduce to the committee formally Mr. Mike Kreidler, from Washington State, who is also a former member. I wish to extend our welcome to you today, sir.
Today, Mr. Csiszar appears not in his capacity as the director of insurance of South Carolina, but in his capacity as spokesperson for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Please proceed at your leisure. Your formal statement will be made part of the record.
STATEMENT OF ERNST CSISZAR, DIRECTOR, SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF INSURANCE, ON BEHALF OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF INSURANCE COMMISSIONERS
Mr. CSISZAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is indeed a pleasure for me and my colleaguesMike and Gregto appear before you this morning.
And I can without any hesitation begin this statement by affirming to you that not only are we desirous to become partners in this process, to offer our expertise to the committee in this process. We are eager to do so.
We are eager to participate as we move forward from what you have generously shared with us, this conceptual framework that we currently have in front of us, and moving from that conceptual framework to a more detailed legislative kind of agenda.
So I want to restate and reaffirm the fact that we are also of an open mind. We have a good deal of expertise that I thinkall of us and the committee members in particular, we offer it to themthat will help in this process.
We are by nature problem solvers when we deal with our constituents. And we know we have some problems in this regulatory system. And we know, as commissioners, as much as you as members of the committee realize, that reform is needed.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are of course particularly pleased that the framework for this reform is not a dual charter of an optional or non-optional type. We are pleased to see that this is the so-called ''federal tools'' approach.
And while we are really in no position to comment on the details, because it is all conceptual at this point, as I said, we are very eager to be at the table and to work with you in developing these concepts, flushing out these concepts into what will eventually, presumably, be legislation.
I think the spotlight that this committee, through its hearings, has brought to the issue has been good. I think it has instilled a sense of urgency amongst commissioners, as well as amongst others who have an interest in this, such as our legislatures and our governors.
And I think we welcome just that very process. The congressional oversight, I think, is always welcome. And we are eager, as I said, to continue with this process.
Now let me just review very brieflyI know some of you have heard many of these things beforebut let me just reaffirm and review briefly what is in progress at the NAIC and why we think that a State-based system of regulation is, indeed, better than any other form of regulation if the State-based regulation can indeed be reformed with the vision, with the concepts that we have in front of us.
We have not been, as you know, standing still in the years since Gramm-Leach-Bliley. On the speed to market, which Mr. Bachus so kindly mentioned, yes, Walter Bell is indeed in charge. We have a very aggressive agenda.
We have the interstate compact. It is three different issues really: the interstate compact and the implementation of that compact in the States; the development and implementation of standards for the product to go through that compact as the single point of entry; and then of course our electronic filing system, which is an integral part of this as well.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me just briefly give you some updated numbers. As you know, the interstate compact has been endorsed both by NCOIL, the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, as well as by NCSL, the Conference of State Legislators.
Roughly 20 jurisdictions are looking at introducing that compact in their legislative sessions. Two of them have actually passed itColorado and Utah. I understand there are two moreVirginia and West Virginiawhere the legislation is sitting on the governor's desk, but has not been signed yet.
We are aggressively pursuing the introduction of that compact this year and in the year to come. Very personally, I can tell you in South Carolina, we are going to be introducing that compact in the coming legislative session.
As regards standards, this is again key. The compact is nothing but a skeleton unless you have those standards that apply to the particular products.
We have identified 24 different product categories. These 24 product categories are working their way through this group headed by Walter Bell. Our timetable is that by our December meeting this yearwhich will be in wonderful Louisiana, in New Orleansby New Orleans, we are going to have those standards in place.
They will, in essence, flush out the interstate compact. And between the two, there you have your single point of entry. There you have your uniformity and, as I said, aggressively pursue that compact for adoption.
On SERFF, by the way, I can only report that our filings have tripled this year. In fact, in 2004, we expect somewhere around 140,000 to 150,000 filings to come through that electronic system.
The average turnaround date on those, by the way, is 17 days. So I think we have made very, very good progress. And I can assure you, we will continue to make good progress by year end.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As regards company approval, we have our alert system. We are continuing to work on making that system more user-friendly and developing a more uniform approach to certificates of authority. And I think we have made good progress.
And again, by year-end, I expect to report back to you that we are in good shape on company approval.
On the NARAB issues, here actually you have a clear example where the licensing of agents and brokers is an area where there is in fact some federal help needed. Here is a case where a good many of the difficulties we have had in moving from reciprocity or even inter-reciprocity and from reciprocity to uniformity, where a good deal of the difficulty has arisen because of our inability to tap into the FBI database.
Here is clearly a case where Congress, I think, can help us overcome that. And we will be, I can assure you, in step with you in making progress towards uniformity in this area.
On market conduct, we have most recently proceeded to implement a handbook that is now a standard procedure for market conduct. That has always been one of the problems that different states did things different procedurally, not just substantively.
We are implementing an analysis process. This analysis process will be uniform. We are collaborating between states.
While there is no resolution to this issue, we are actively looking at how the new NCOIL model in market conduct overlaps with our work and to what extent we can make ourselves run in parallel with the NCOIL mode. That is currently under consideration. I cannot report to you a final result yet. But I can assure you, again, that we are making progress in this area.
On the financial side, we realize that on the financial side, which is the crown jewel of what we do, the solvency issues, we know that reform is needed there. We know that we can update, for instance, our risk-based capital figure. We know that we need to move from the traditional post-review, looking back for 3 or 4 or 5 years to a forecasting approach, to a risk-assessment approach, if you will.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Kevin McCarthy, who is the commissioner in Florida, he and Tom Gallagher are chairing that group. And we are very, very actively making good progress in that area, even on the rating issue, the personal lines rating issue, which is clearly the most contentious issue, I think.
This whole notion of where competition fits in all of this, even here I can report to you that 36 states actually have competitive rating models in place. Fifteen states, however, have a very strict prior approval process.
But that is a contentious issue, has been a contentious issue for the last 100 years and continues to be one today. And it is good to keep in mind that on those issues, Mr. Chairman, we also, regardless of what we as commissioners may think, we also have other constituents to deal with, ranging anywhere from our legislature to our governor to the attorneys general. And in some states, the trial bar has also actively become involved on issues of that kind.
I might also point out that even though we realize that significant reforms are needed, the system has actually worked fairly well. I think it is interesting to note that we have not had the same kinds of problems that we have seen with Tyco and Enron and the others, where directors, auditors, bankers, executives have compromised themselves really through self-dealing, sometimes to the point of criminal activity.
We have not seen that kind of activity in the insurance industry. And I think in many ways state regulation, because it is closer to the market, it is closer to the consumer, to some extent, at least, I think we can attribute that result to the effectiveness of state regulation.
So in summary, rather than going into details, I will leave it open to questions, but in summary, we are with you. We want to be at the table. We will help you. We offer our expertise to you.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Please take advantage of it. And we will walk step in step with you as we make progress in this entire process, in this entire federal tools approach.
So that is where we stand. Mike and Greg, I think, want to make some brief comments. And I will stop with that.
[The prepared statement of Ernst Csiszar can be found on page 100 in the appendix.]
Chairman BAKER. Please proceed as you choose.
STATEMENT OF MIKE KREIDLER, WASHINGTON STATE INSURANCE COMMISSIONER
Mr. KREIDLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I come in part here because I think I reflect the diversity of what we see in membership of the NAIC. I think it represents the diversity that you have in the Congress, you will also find diversity among the commissioners across this country of ours.
As I look at it, I come from a slightly different perspective. I come from a perspective of not being somebody that has spent their life working in the insurance industry or as a regulator.
And I think I can stand back and look at it from much the same perspective of many of the members who had the opportunity to serve in their state legislatures and view what took place in insurance regulation and the role that states play and then also to take a look at it from the perspective of the problems and challenges that we face.
No one is saying that there are not problems and changes that are necessary and we agree that there are places where the Congress can effectively assist as we go forward in making changes in the system. I would however point out that there are areas where the need is more acute, from the standpoint of the nature of the products then in other areas. The areas that have been identified by the committee certainly are very much recognized by members of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, are in life insurance products. These very much are products that need a standardization and a uniformity.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am proud of the success that we have shown and are exhibiting in the area of an interstate compact. We also have three states currently that are in the process of beginning the process of accepting applications through a memorandum of understanding. And they are three of the largest states that we have.
I would believe that we will wind up having one uniform system for those particular types of products. And we are moving aggressively in that direction.
I would commend the committee for helping to put pressure, so to speak, on the insurance regulators to recognize that these changes are necessary and needed. There are always going to be forces that would like to go slower rather than faster, that change sometimes comes hard.
But the pressure that we feel and the changes that we are bringing about are ones that are very consistent with what you have heard before this committee and what we feel as insurance regulators.
One area where I am particularly concerned as we approach this tools list of various items is: where do the consumers fit into this equation? I really do believe that the issues related to consumer protection are of an acute nature.
Let me give you some idea. We had over 200,000 contacts with my office in the last year from consumers. We have over 700 cases that we are currently working with consumers.
This is an issue where you have a promise by insurance companies to fulfill an obligation that is very different from that of financial services associated with banking. They are changes that need to be approached cautiously.
When we get into some of these areas that we have before us right now in the area of property and casualty, for example, whether it is homeowner's insurance of automobile insurance, there is a great deal of difference between the Stateswhether it be their tort laws or whether it be because of the kind of urban versus rural distribution; whether it be because of any number of factors that cause the rates to be very different from one locale to another.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the area of commercial forms in commercial insurance, I think there are some changes that you could help us with. One of the challenges that we face right now is getting some of the agents that are independent agents in the State of Washington comfortable with deregulation. For example, striking a balance of their needs with the larger agents and brokers and the companies, is being able to strike that bargain as to where does the consumer need protection? And where does an unregulated market take effect?
States would like to go further, but frequently run into resistance because there is a bit of a provincialism here of trying to keep that standard too high. I think that is one place where you could essentially further help us to address that problem by pushing on that issue. But again, do not push it too low.
If you are a business that does not have a professional risk manager on staff, you are not going to be in a position to go into a market that is unregulated and be able to make the sophisticated choices. You are much more like the homeowner or the automobile insurer that is going to be concerned about what your product has and you do not have the sophistication to make a determination. So that threshold of deregulation is important to us.
When it comes to the issues related to agent licensing, Commissioner Csiszar pointed it out. One of the problems that we face there when it comes to agent licensing is that there has been resistance here at the national level to do what we have done in the State of Washington for years, which is to give the insurance regulator the authority to take a look at the FBI database.
In fact, our independent agents aggressively supported to make sure, when the FBI came through and we questioned whether we had direct statutory authority in the State of Washington to access that database, they actively supported us doing so. I can tell you right now that there are out-of-state licenses that have been requested in the State of Washington where you have individuals with felony convictions in the financial services area that are agents in good standing in some states and we quite frankly would not like to see them doing business in our state.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You could help us by making sure that all states have that kind of access and are doing that kind of FBI fingerprint check on every individual who does business in their state.
These are some places where you can assist us in doing those changes. I would urge caution in the breadth of what is outlined right now in the tools, in no small part because of its impact on consumer protection.
What may be good for the companies may not be good for the consumers. And consumers need a seat at this table that is very strong and making sure that their rights are adequately protected.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman BAKER. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF GREGORY SERIO, SUPERINTENDENT, NEW YORK STATE INSURANCE DEPARTMENT
Mr. SERIO. Good morning, Mr. Chairman. And thank you for having us again.
Mr. Kanjorskiand thank you to Ms. Kelly and Ms. McCarthy for the kind introductions earlier.
Let me take a perspective that one of your members took a few minutes ago and amplify that just for a minute; and that is on: what is the end goal of the modernization? We want competition in the marketplace. And I think we share that with you.
We want consumer protection, as Commissioner Kreidler indicated. We want that. And I think we all share that issue as well.
Just to give you a context that this is the right thing to be working on and focusing on, in terms of modernization of the insurance regulatory system, the activities that we have already undertaken, both in partnership with the Congress, as well as individually through the NAIC, have yielded those kinds of consumer protections that we are all benefiting from right now. And this is a context. And this is an objective that I think we are trying to keep in mind as we go forward, working with you, on the concepts of the design and on the design of the details of your conceptual draft.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And that is that in New York and in other states, we have been able to retask a lot of our insurance resourcesscarce state resources. And everybody knows the difficulties the States are having with respect to their budgets.
But by taking on the modernization initiative, largely at the impetus of the House Financial Services Committee in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley bill a few years ago, and then taking on that with the Statement of intent with the NAIC an the restatement that we issued last year, we have been able to make firm inroads into added consumer protections by retasking.
A lot of our human resources at the department, our staffs that used to open up envelopes, handle paper, take phone calls, as opposed to the types of modernizations that we have been able to do, leveraging technology, leveraging uniformity between the States and really making it a more efficient system, we have been able to retask those resources into added consumer service representatives, into added frauds investigators, into added and real-time financial surveillance.
There is an end result here that I think sometimes we miss as we talk about the details and getting through the devils of the details and things of that nature; and that is that is a laudable objective that we subscribe to entirely. Because we, as the managers of the 51 or 54 state regulatory insurance agencies and in the District of Columbia and in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, we know the need to retask and reuse and retool our existing agencies to make them better at what we are asked to doand that is, protect the consumers and do better in the job of financial surveillance, real-time, market monitoring to make sure that those things that have been filed are being used the way they are supposed to be in the marketplace.
This is one of the things we have already found by the activities we have undertaken at the NAIC, by the uniformity and the reciprocity that NARAB really pushed us to do. And I am very pleased and probably would not have been asked to come if New York had not passed a producer licensing bill, as we did last year. That is having real tangible benefits.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So as we go forward, and as we create the balance between what is good for the companies, good for the consumers, let's realize at the end of the day that this is also good for the efficacy of the regulatory process because it is allowing us to put our resources where they need to be the most, in terms of protecting those consumers.
Chairman BAKER. Thank you very much.
Commissioner Csiszar, as Superintendent Serio was just outlining in his New York case, where the transition from prior regulatory structure to a more streamlined structure had a couple of benefits to his constituency. Viewing the South Carolina experience, having gone through the regulatory modifications from your view, it appears that there are two different distinguishable changes that have occurred. And I would like you to speak to those.
On the one hand, it seems as though more product is now available for consumers and that the competitive market results in better pricing opportunities for consumers, which is the direct goal we hope would occur. But along the line of limited state resources, it would seem that getting your staff out of a stricter regulatory oversight posture with regard to, say, product approvals and shifting those individuals over to enforcement is the real secondary benefit because it enables you to do the real consumer protection advocacy that you might have had more limited resources in the prior model.
Are either or both of those observations accurate?
Mr. CSISZAR. Well, let me speak first of all as the commissioner of South Carolina in responding to that. Clearly, in South Carolina, we reached the realization that our market is not the same as the California market, for instance.
Companies do not trip over themselves to write in South Carolina; not least because we are a rounding error on an income statement or a balance sheet. So we realized that we had to do something different if we wanted to make our market more attractive.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And the route we chose, the route the legislature choseit was not me. The legislature chose the route of, in essence, moving from a prior approval to what is nothing more than a rate man system on the automobile side. And we are trying to replicate that on the homeowner's side this year by actually going through a transition from rate man's into a file and use or use and file system.
Now having said that, a California market may very well be different because if you are a companya large company in particularyou probably cannot afford not to do business in California, just because of the size of the market. But certainly, what we have seen in South Carolina as the primary benefit is availability, affordability impactclear availability and affordability impact.
And the second issue, I think again, to some extent, this is driven by Gramm-Leach-Bliley. But to some extent it is also, I think, the realization that when you look at what is it that is essential about the insurance product?
And yes, while there are many things that can be expected from the purchase of the product, the most fundamental thing to be expected is the payment of the claim when a claim comes due. And that claim may come due tomorrow or the day after the purchase or it may come due 25 years from now.
So when you look at fundamentally what is it you have to do to protect the consumer from the standpoint of the company being there when that claim needs to be paid? Solvency, of course, immediately comes to mind.
So we have managed in South Carolina to focus much more on solvency, number one, and at the same time also dealing with consumer complaints. Because as my colleague from Washington stated, we too in a small state like South Carolina, we had 50,000 either inquiries or complaints; 50,000 over the phone.
And that does not count emails. And it does not count mail.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And by the way, each one of those does get answered. They do not disappear into the cracks.
So it has allowed us to really focus on those two areas. And that has been the benefit in an environmenta state environmentwhere yes, the budget dollars are scarce these days.
Chairman BAKER. My time is just about expired. But I want to do one follow up. Advocates of optional federal charter rightfully claim that by establishing an alternative federal mechanism for the marketing and sale of insurance product, you have the absolute assurance that you can operate in all states in a similar fashion.
One of the problems in an incremental approach comes on the enforcement side. If you look at the fair degree of success of NARAB, there are still elements that have not yet come into compliance some years after its adoption.
So it gets us to the question of if we are to seriously consider incremental, the appropriateness of some federal enforcement ability to ensure that states participate in a time certain. Is that, given the argument between optional federal charter and incremental, incremental with weaponry maybe, doesn't that seem to make some sense?
If we are really going to move the ball forward in a fixed period of time, to enable legislatures to act, to enable commissioners to conduct their review professionally, you cannot have it immediately. But after some period of time, if states have not adopted what generally all parties have agreed to as an appropriate method of conducting business, do we not have to have some enforcement ability in whatever we do?
Mr. CSISZAR. Let me start by saying that from my standpoint, Mr. Chairman, the dual optional charter is the worst of all possible solutions, really. I would rather at that point say, ''Let the States get out of this business and have the federal government take the whole thing.''
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You have all kinds of complications, from premium taxes to guarantee funds to so on. To me, the dual optional charter really is not the solution.
Forget about bureaucracies now and costs and so on, just from a purely business standpoint. I think I am not an advocate of that approach at all.
Having said that, yes clearly I think you have to make sure that states take this seriously and enforce it. And I can only speak again from my state on this one. I know when Congress speaks in our state or when our congressional delegation speaks, state legislatures listen and the governor listens and the attorney general listens.
So I think the very, very fact that you are engaging in this process and maybe producing a piece of legislation will speak louder than anything.
Chairman BAKER. I thank you. I appreciate your attorney general. I wish I could get another attorney general to listen, but that is another subject.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Following along on that question, Mr. Csiszar, is there any reason why, taking just life insurance, that it is not uniform across the country? Is there something distinctive about the people of South Carolina that they are different from California?
Mr. CSISZAR. Quite frankly, Mr. Kanjorski, I think the greatest case, the best case for uniformity can be made by looking at life products.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Okay.
Mr. CSISZAR. There is no question about it.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Well, let's follow that along. I do not have the numbers, but you probably could tell me. What portion of the insurance business written in South Carolinaor nationally, if you knowis represented in the life business?
Mr. CSISZAR. I cannot give you the figure on a national level. But I know in South Carolina, it would be significant, probably equal though with property and casualty, about 50-50 or 60-40.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KANJORSKI. Well, it would seem to me that life experience in life insurance is not too dissimilar in all the States. And listening to some of the comments of my colleague beforeand yoursthat really you are interested in protection of the consumer in the difficult areas.
I do not imagine that there are an awful lot of people that are calling an insurance commissioner about their life insurance policy. Or am I mistaken about that?
Mr. CSISZAR. I disagree there. I mean, for instance, we have had significant cases of churning, for instance, in the life industry. We have essentially market conduct-related types of cases.
I would say the volume on the life side is probably no different than the volume on the property and casualty side.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Okay. That is very interesting. And that is a good observation that I was not aware.
What would you say if the Congress does nothing or if we pass the proposed conceptual proposal, that we do not quite know how it will work yet? If we just do that, when would you think that life insurance would be uniform throughout the 50 states? How fast do you think we are going to get there?
Mr. CSISZAR. Well, I think this is where clearly we are taking the view that we can deliver on that issue. We can deliver. And that we can deliver before 2008 on that.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Am I to understand then that it is your testimony that by 2008, regardless of where you live in the United States, you would be able to get a uniform policy of life insurance?
Mr. CSISZAR. I think between the pressure that you are exerting on us and the effort that we are making to implement the interstate compact and the national standards, under that compact I think we can get it done.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KANJORSKI. How do we resolve this question of a global market when we have our trade representative meeting around the world and he is representing 50 sovereign entities with most of them clearly smaller than most of the other nations in the world he is dealing with? How does it get some uniformity there in terms of the impact our trade representative can have on globalization?
Mr. CSISZAR. The answer I would have there is really a question, Mr. Kanjorski. I will be interested to see how the expanded European Union is going to treat that very same question because they are the ones who have been making this argument for uniformity in the 50 states.
With the expansion of the union later on this year, they are going to have the similar situation. In fact, our trade representatives will be empowered to ask them that same question.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Well, I am just wondering why? I am not a person that is anxious to get to federal regulation of anything. But it would seem to me, from some of the past testimony that we have heard from particularly the life insurance companies, that there is sort of uniform agreement that there is nothing peculiar about this industry that is not national in scope and subject to a national standard and subject to national uniformity.
If that is the case and as we are moving along this regulatory process, if we singled out the life insurance business and offered an optional federal charter there, why would that not have a positive impact for the various state commissioners, to have more resources to regulate the difficulties that they may have in the other categories of insurance that are more parochially related to the jurisdiction they have control over?
Mr. CSISZAR. I think I go back, first of all, to my earlier comment that you do have the same kinds of problemsconsumer issues, for instanceon the life side that will still require treatment at a local level, number one. Number two, I think even though you speak of it as a uniform kind of industry and perhaps the dual charter in response to that uniformity, my response to that, Mr. Kanjorski, is that we can deliver at the State level. And the expertise currently is at the State level.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If we can come back to you and say we have implemented the interstate compact. We have these standards across the 24 product categoriesby the way, those are life product categories that we are speaking of, life products and long-term care productsif we can deliver on those, then there is the solution to the uniformity issue.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Would you feel your association and the majority of the commissioners would be adamantly opposed to a national life optional charter?
Mr. CSISZAR. Very much so. Very much so.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Based on the fact that you are losing some of your jurisdiction? Or it is just the wrong thing to do?
Mr. CSISZAR. Look, I for one, this is the first time I am in public service. I come out of the private sector. I do not have a turf issue.
As I tell people, whether I work in this job or not, my dogs will get fed when I get home at night, you know? So it is not a turf issue.
Mr. KANJORSKI. You are lucky to have dogs.
Mr. CSISZAR. But to me, it really is an issue of where can the best job be done? I have often maintained publicly that the issues we are discussing, we really should not be discussing state versus federal here? We really should be discussing regulation that is outmoded and requires reform and that improved regulation that comes from that reform.
I have called it good regulation versus bad regulation.
Mr. KANJORSKI. The other thingand I will just take one morethe only observation I want to make is that I heard the chairman of the committee mention those promising words made 133 years ago. And it seems at this point that we are always 3 to 5 or 10 years down the road.
We are already 5 years from H.R. 10. So it has been a long time in coming. And I probably personally now am starting to lose my confidence that the 50 statesall 50 of themare capable of coming together and resolving some of these problems.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I wish they would. I wish they had already. But I am not terribly optimistic anymore.
Mr. OSE. [Presiding.] The gentleman from Connecticut?
Mr. SHAYS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like you gentlemen to outline to me the most serious challenges you think face consumers today because we do not have uniformity.
Mr. CSISZAR. I apologize, Mr. Shays. I only heard part of the question.
Mr. SHAYS. The question was this: I want you to outline to me where the consumer suffers today because we do not have uniformity and we do not have speed to market and so on.
Mr. CSISZAR. I am not sure that suffering is really the right word because when you look at uniformity, the part of the industry that seems to have the greatest need for uniformity really is on the life side. And there seems to be a plethora of products out there on the life side.
Now that is not to say that you cannot find new products and more innovative products and release them into the market quicker, if we speed to market. But we certainly do not see any sign of suffering on the consumer's part.
And that is the side that is driving the uniformity issue. On the property and casualty side, certainly we have availability and affordability issues, as we heard in California for instance, on homeowner's. But uniformity is really more a life issue than a property and casualty issue.
Mr. SHAYS. I served in the State House for 13 years and I understand why we wanted state regulation of banks. I understand why we wanted state regulation of insurance.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Tell me why the arguments for banking, why insurance would be different than banking? Because state regulation of banking turned out to be a total and complete disaster in New England.
Mr. CSISZAR. I think the nature of the product makes this very different. What we have is, in many ways, insurance is a mandated product. It is treated as a nuisance purchase by consumers. They really do not want it, but they get it because they have to.
They have to because either the law requires it or their mortgage company requires the purchase of the product. When they purchase the product, it is not like they are opening up a bank account or getting a loan in order to buy something desirable like an automobile or a home.
What they are really hoping for is, when they buy the product, is that they never have to use that product. And really, what they are getting from the insurance company, even though it is this 40-page piece of paper, what they are really getting is nothing more than a promise.
And here the issue is then what can the process or what kind of regulatory process can you bring to the table that assures that promise will be fulfilled, as indeed promised? So I think it really is a different kind of product from a banking product. The nature of the purchase, the nature of the buyer's expectations are very different here from a typical banking product.
Mr. SHAYS. I wrestle with this bottom line. And what I wrestle with is that I want consumers to get the latest products as quickly as possible. And I want there to be as much competition as there possibly can be.
And I am struck by the fact that that is not the case under our current system. Why do you think this legislation would resolve that?
Mr. CSISZAR. I think certainly the pressure that you are exerting through this legislation and the fact that we are at work on an interstate compactwell, we have the interstate compact; we need to implement itthe fact that we are working on those standards of uniformity, the fact that we are turning things around through our SERFF system in 17 days and not 2 years, the fact that that message is getting through to the larger states. As Mike said, for instance, we have an MOU now between Texas and California and Florida on some of the life products. That very fact, I think, is going to change things.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secondly, if you look at new products and introducing new products, again I go back to the fact that I think the State-based system is much preferable to a federal system because it allows you to experiment without betting the ranch. If you have a new product and an innovative product, you can test that product in a state and see how it works.
Mr. SHAYS. I do not understand the last point. I mean, you could test a product whether or not you had national or not.
Mr. CSISZAR. That is true. But on the other hand, the State-based system allows some flexibility in terms of only introducing it in that state, if it is permissible in that state, and testing it in that state.
No, I understand what you are saying. You are saying you could take and introduce the product anywhere. That is true.
But I really think that there is a flexibility in that State-based system, much as what we have seen with our welfare system, where the ''one size fits all'' does not always fit, where a state has to be allowed to, in essence, do its own thing.
Mr. SHAYS. I thank you. And I likewise will be very curious to see what the EU does as we try to penetrate that market more.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. OSE. The gentleman from Georgia?
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Csiszar, could you tell me how state price controls have harmed small business owners? For example, are consumers restricted in their ability to have auto collision repair in highly regulated states?
Mr. CSISZAR. I do not think I can really answer that question with any hard evidence, other than evidence out of South Carolina again. And I can tell you in South Carolina, it was not even the issue of whether they could get it repaired or not. In South Carolina, we had a real availability issue.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We had a reinsurance facility that covered both personal automobiles, as well as commercial automobiles. That market, that residual market, that reinsurance facility became the largest insurance company in the State.
And the end result was that, while insurance was available, it was not really competitive because very few other companies wrote in the State because of this large residual market. So we had to solve our problem in South Carolina based on the size of the residual market.
The losses, by the way, from that residual market were charged back to the consumer. So if you are asking how did the consumer suffer? He suffered, either on the personal auto or a commercial auto, by having to pay something called the ''recoupment fee.''
And that recoupment fee, the losses in the facility were at $240 million, $250 million every year. That all got charged back. So that is probably the direct impact that we experienced in South Carolina, at least.
So I can only answer it from that perspective.
Mr. SCOTT. But do you see that this is may be one of those areas where there may be some evidence where the cry for national regulation might have some substance?
Mr. CSISZAR. Again, the problem with national regulation, as we see it in South Carolina, the homeowner and the automobile owner in South Carolina does not want to pay for the losses of that individual in California or in Florida.
Mr. SCOTT. Okay. Are property and casualty insurance inherently state and local issues, in your opinion?
Mr. CSISZAR. Sorry, I missed the last part.
Mr. SCOTT. Are property and casualty insurance inherently state or local issues?
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CSISZAR. They are inherently state issues, local issues. As Mike said, torts come into the picture. And tort law is on a state basis.
Coverages are very local. For instance, in our state, we only need earthquake coverage in one particular part of the State and that is the Charleston area because it experienced an earthquake in the late 1900s.
Nowhere else in the State do we have that kind of earthquake activity. So there are some peculiarities, both based on geography, also based on population. As Mike said, rural versus urban, for instance. Automobile insurance in an urban area is a different creature from one in a rural area.
Mr. SCOTT. What is the effectiveness of rate controls in the States?
Mr. CSISZAR. Those who have them in place will tell you that they are God's gift. And those who do not have them in place think they have a better market. There is no unanimity on this issue, Mr. Scott.
Mr. SCOTT. Do you think they are holding down rates? Or are they restricting competition?
Mr. CSISZAR. Again, I can only speak for my state. In our case, the reinsurance facility became a method of rate suppression. And hence, we had to get rid of it.
In other states, others tell me, my colleague in North Carolina tells me that his prior approval system is working just fine. And if you look at the statistics, he is somewhere around average always, much like Illinois is.
So it is hard to tell. Different models.
Mr. SCOTT. One final question. What do you think of the idea of creating a self-regulatory organization to oversee insurance matters, similar to the securities industry?
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CSISZAR. I think the industry would love it. But I do not think it would be the right solution to the problem.
I really think that our regulatory system, Mr. Scott, has worked fairly well. While I am the first one to sit here and admit that God, yes, we do need some reform on the uniformity issue, for instance.
In other respects, it has worked quite well. We have not had a savings and loan fiasco. We have not had a BCCI in this industry.
We have not had the problems that the mutual funds are experiencing. We have not had an Enron in this. So I can go on and on. I think in that sense, we have really served the consumer well.
Mr. SCOTT. Our Ranking Member Kanjorski, as I understand his opinions on this, is not necessarily clear that the States can handle this and that we may have to look at a national reform, a national regulator. Could you tell us, in your own opinions, what damage a national regulator would do?
Mr. CSISZAR. It will eviscerate the State system. You might as well start from scratch. And I feel that there is such expertise at the State level. And I think there is such good response to the consumer at the State level, that that step is not necessary.
Now I will agree with Mr. Kanjorski that the proof will be in the pudding. We better deliver on this one. I would be the first one to say that if I come before this committee 2, 3 years from nowGod forbid I should still be in this positionbut if I do come before this committee 2 or 3 years from now, you can hammer me over the head because we do need to deliver.
But I think the timing is such that we can deliver. And we want to be given the chance to be able to deliver, to prove to you.
So we welcome the oversight. I welcome the pressure that this exerts because it instills a sense of urgency in us to do this and to get it done.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OSE. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. OSE. The gentlelady from New York?
Mrs. KELLY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I chaired a hearing on market conduct oversight in the Oversight Subcommittee last May. And I was amazed at some of the requirements that contribute to the cost of doing business in some of these states.
Like I am going to just give a few examples. Massachusetts has a checklist for their speed to market initiative that is 230 pages long. Wisconsin requires companies to put a slash through all zeros on policy form transmittal, which requires going over the form by hand to put the slash in.
Nevada requires their filing fee document to be on the top page. Arizona requires insurance company names to be fully spelled out. There are no abbreviations.
Colorado requires an original signature on every state form. Missouri requires a stamp of an insurance company's name on each attachment of a rate filing.
Nevada requires pink paper to be used when submitting the filing fee document pagepink paper. It is Nevada. Kentucky has requirements for stapling. But if you file in Kentucky and in Ohio, you have to pull the staples out because Ohio does not allow paper clips or staples in their filing.
Now this is ridiculous. And it is a cost-consuming kind of thing to have this kind of stuff going on.
So my question is: if Congress required a nationwide uniform documentation and market conduct review, would the consumers benefit in the immediate future? I am asking all of you that question.
Mr. CSISZAR. I will begin and I will let Greg take over as well. But I will add another one to you. It took me about 3 or 4 years to find out that we were not accepting parentheses in our documents because somebody 20 years ago decided that that is the way to slip in things into an insurance policy, by putting it into parentheses.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is embarrassing when I listen to something, to that litany, it is absolutely embarrassing to me that we sit here to even have to discuss this sort of thing. This is sheer, utter nonsenseutter nonsense. And I do not think you will get any disagreement from the commissioners on this.
Part of the problem has always been the bureaucracy. You know, as I said, it took me 3 years to find out we were not accepting parentheses.
Part of it I think is the bureaucracy and driving that change through the bureaucracy. Part of it I think has to do with the fact that you have these desk drawer rules.
So I think the market conduct process, as we envision it now, whether it be ultimately through a model we are developing or in the midst of developing or through the adoption of the NCOIL model, will specifically avoid that sort of thing, plus the fact that fact that you have SERFF in place now. And it is a common filing through SERFF. You do not have all these added little rules, unless you file on a state-by-state basis without using SERFF.
But we now have what, 50 states? All states are on SERFF. So I think a lot of this will go away. But I have heard these things. And I blush and I am embarrassed when I hear about them.
Mrs. KELLY. Well, my basic question is: do you think the consumers would benefit in the immediate future if we require a uniform documentation? SERFF may be the answer to that, but is that going to help consumers? I am really looking at how this is going to help folks.
Mr. SERIO. Yeah, I think it will. Whether you do the uniformity approach or we do it through the interstate compact and other initiatives and get out of the paper business altogether. It cannot be overstated the importance of SERFF, both for the States and for the companies to together be a part of this.
We have to balance this out. And you heard all the horror stories in market conduct. And we were enforcing the law of pink paper against the companies.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC At the same time though, you have the balancing of the incomplete applications, the applications that had things in parentheses because they were trying to do something else other than what the product was purported to be. Getting to uniform standards, getting to uniform mechanics of filing and approving these products cannot do anything but help the consumer, from a couple of perspectives.
Number one, the cost that is built into the product of designing the product and getting the product approved, right off the bat, that is a built-in cost of the product.
Second of all, it is the cost to the consumer as taxpayers, not just of the insurance department where we are largely funded by assessments on the industry, but it is all the other apparatus in state and federal governmentsthe consumer protection boards, the attorneys general, the others who will undoubtedly get into the middle of this consumer issuewhere the taxpayer is paying for this several times over.
Bringing uniformity, bringing claritymaybe that is almost a better word for itbringing clarity of the process and the requirements on each side, what is required of the departments, as well as what is required of the companies, I think that clarity can only help the consumer.
When Governor Pataki was first elected in 1995, his second executive order was to shed all of our regulations of the type of things that you just spoke about: get rid of the desk drawer rules; get rid of the commas and the paper clips and all those other issues that did not bring any value added or any added value to the protection of the consumer and the delivery of the business in the State of New York.
And other states have done this. Other governors have done the same thing.
That is really what has to happen in terms of this wholesale approach to clarity. And I think the electronic processing certainly goes a long way to getting that.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. KELLY. Thank you very much.
Mr. OSE. We have heard a lot about Kentucky. Now we are going to hear from the gentleman from Kentucky.
Mr. LUCAS. Thank you, Mr. Ose.
I am an old life guy. And I come from those prejudices. And I admit those upfront. But after 31 years of frustration with getting product to market, that is sort of in my craw.
And I guess one of the things, when I came to Congress, I thought there was a lot more knowledge here with the body corporate of insurance matters, both P&C and life. And I was surprised to find out there was not a lot of knowledge.
Mr. David Woods in his NAIFA testimony brought out one thing that I thought showed the lack of understanding here in this body about life insurance in particular. In the victims' compensation settlement after 9/11, we passed a law that people who provided for their families with life insuranceand really, for the price of a set of golf clubs, you could have bought a couple of boatloads of insurance to protect your family.
But the victims' compensation did not take into account stocks, bonds, savings accounts, inheritances. But if you had life insurance, then that was subtracted from your settlement, from people who were responsible about their families.
That has always bothered me a whole lot. That does not have anything to do with anything here, but I feel better about having said that.
And also, the other thing, we talked about 1861 and it is 2004. And according to my math, that is 144 years instead of 134 years, but what is 10 years? It is like a nanosecond when it comes to insurance regulation, right?
But you know, I have been for the optional federal charter. And I stated that. And it is probably the most astounding thing I have said since I have been here in Congress, the reaction I got.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But basically, I think what we need to do is to level the playing field. And frankly, I do not care how we do it. Just let's do it.
And, I mean, for all the duplication there is in the 50 states about the same duplicitous things that people go through. It might take a couple of years to approve a product when in fact the banksand I have been involved with banks and mutual funds, I have been involved with those tooyou know, they can go have a product right away and the life insurance company takes forever. That is not right.
And so all I am suggesting that we need to do is let's just do something. And let us level this playing field.
And my thought is, if we do not do something about it, we might do something up here that you may not like. And so let's move.
And I do not know that I have a question. And I might state too that the Kentucky Insurance Commission modernized back in the 1950s and went to paper clips. So I want you to know that we are moving right along.
Mr. OSE. The chair recognizes the progress in Kentucky.
The gentleman from Alabama?
Mr. BACHUS. Thank you, Mr. Ose, for recognizing me.
I would start with Mr. Serio. Mr. Serio, do you think that properly targeted federal legislation may either assist or encourage or push certain states to coordinate and achieve more full participation in some of the key NAIC programs that you all have?
Mr. SERIO. Yes. I do not think there is a question about it. I think we saw it with NARAB. And I think you were very helpful with that.
I think we have seen the States acknowledging that the partnership that they have with the federal government and with the Congress as the policymaking body specifically, where we dealt with it in the Fair Credit Reporting Act reauthorization and the preemption in that case because in that case, that was the best way to go. But I think that, again coming back to the old line of the devil is in the details, we want to make sure that whatever we work on together makes sense back at that local level.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Because so much of this businessand I will even go so far as to say even with the discussion we have had so far today, that even life insurance, while uniform in terms of its product designand that is why the NAIC has been focusing on life products in the interstate compact standards as the first place to goit is still largely a locally distributed product. So I think that balance between federal policy, state implementation, state regulation, is a good balance that I think we have seen the success of that formula several times over.
Mr. BACHUS. And let me ask you and Mr. Csiszar both, Walter Bell's committee is working, other committees, is it possible for you all to actually, if you run into a road block, to actually recommend to us some specifically-targeted federal legislation that might actually you may find needed to break through on some of these?
Mr. SERIO. I think that is part of the ongoing dialogue. I can tell you that the NAIC and the individual states have had what has been an unprecedented level of involvement, cooperation and partnership particularly with the House Financial Services Committee.
So I think before we can come in and advise the committee that there is a problem, I think the committee will know it because of the ongoing dialogue that we are having and because the chairs have made themselves available to come to the NAIC and speak to the commissioners directly and because the NAIC has been expending as many resources as it has to have New York, South Carolina, Washington and other commissionersDelaware is here todaycome to Washington and pursue this dialogue. I think it will almost become unspoken that when you see if there is some difficulty, you will see that as a recognition that we can probably use some assistance in terms of moving forward on what has been the uniform goal of uniformity, both between the States and the federal government.
Mr. BACHUS. All right.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KREIDLER. If I could just offer a quick comment relative to Commissioner Walter Bell's work on speed to market? One of the real challenges was to be able to come up with product standards for life and annuity products. They have done a commendable job.
And we are in the process of approving those product standards by the NAIC. And it is a critical part of moving forward with the interstate compact.
Because once you have product standards, you have something that state legislators can take a look at and say, ''We are not going to disadvantage consumers if we go to these particular product standards. Therefore, we are willing to step into an interstate compact.''
I mean, we all know that interstate compacts have not been warmly received by a number of states as a general concept, particularly if they are going to be a depository for nuclear waste or something of that nature. But in this case, we have product standards.
And it is the work of Commissioner Bell through speed to market, where we have those now. And I think you are going to see states moving aggressively now to join the interstate compact because they have something in hand now. They have these product standards. And that means speed to market.
And so I am very optimistic right now we are going to see a lot of progress. And Commissioner Bell from your state has played an incredibly important part of making that happen.
Mr. BACHUS. Okay. And my next question to any of you all that care to answer: does it make sense to have some sort of a state-federal council to help coordinate certain areas of insurance policy or to speak for the industry? I will give you an example.
Now we have the federal government regulates insurance in a number of fields, like the terrorist insurance. On legislation, we had flood insurance, health insurance.
And I often hear that there is nobody at the table representing the insurance industry, say in trade talks. You know, there is someone that speaks for the financial industry. But there is no one at the table for the insurance industry.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Does some sort of federal-state council, I mean, if we could establish that with your input, would that be something you would be willing to pursue?
Mr. CSISZAR. Let me take that question and my colleagues may want to comment on it as well. A couple of things about that.
I think one of the reasons why we are even discussing this issue of representation at the federal level has to do with the fact thatblame us. In years past, not until very recently, the NAIC has not been at the table.
There has not been anyone really here in Washington; and I think deliberately so. When you look at the Gramm-Leach-Bliley process, for instance, we did not get involved until the very end. You know, by then, the train had left the station.
So I think the first comment I would make is I do not think you are going to have as many of these representation issues as we did in the past because we are here now and the industry is here and the consumers are here as well. That is number one.
Number two, the fear that I have about setting up any kind of separate federal body is that it becomes the prototype for something like what we have with the OCC. And quite frankly, as you know, there are a great many of the problems, most recently this preemption of predatory lending laws, stemming from the fact that you have had someone like the OCC representing the banks here.
What I would propose to do and what I have proposed to the industryand in fact, the industry approached us. I should not say the industrythe ACLI and I have had discussions. Many of these representation issues come down to tax issues.
Why don't we form a joint NAIC industry group to address these tax issues in Washington? We are here for you. We have the expertise. I think that representation can come as a natural part of that.
So rather than having this risk of an OCC confusion between what does that coordinator do? And where does coordination stop and regulation begin, for instance? Rather than having that take place, my suggestion would be that the industry and the NAIC get together and do this themselves.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Everybody else does it the same way, really. I mean, you do not see a manufacturer represented by an OCC on a tax issue, for instance. So I think we can
Mr. BACHUS. But of course, you have the Department of Commerce with manufacturers. With the financial institutions, you have the Treasury, the Fed. There is no one.
Mr. OSE. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. BACHUS. Okay. Could I change subjects and ask one more question?
Mr. OSE. The gentleman asks unanimous consent for one further question.
Mr. BACHUS. And I am just making this almost more of a statement to preserve time. I mentioned in my opening statement the reinsurers. You know, reinsurers contract with insurance companies, not with consumers.
So I would simply sayand I hope you agreethat it could meet, the States could meet more uniformity in how they treat the reinsurers and that you do not have the consumer component.
Mr. OSE. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. BACHUS. And they are all nodding their heads in agreement, I think.
Mr. OSE. Let the record show.
The gentleman from Washington?
Mr. INSLEE. Thank you. I wonder if you can talk, just sort of from the consumer's side of the coin for a minute, about the prospects of specifics on protecting consumer's rights if we do have legislation? Just one idea, there are numerous ones I suppose could be considered, but this issue of privacy.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You know, we are outsourcing a lot of functions overseas now of a lot of back room operations. And there have been concerns expressed about maintaining consumer privacy. There are 1,000 other things that we might incorporate in a consumer bill of rights or a consumer's kind of interest specifically.
Is that something that we ought to at least think about if there is legislation? If so, how should we think about it?
General question for the wisdom of the panel.
Mr. KREIDLER. Mr. Inslee, I would say that having some statement here of assurances that changes are put forward by the Congress to make sure that consumers, with these changes, are not disadvantaged, that they have protections under the current state system. And as changes are being advocated, hopefully on a very targeted basis.
But even with those changes, if you could make sure that there are not compromises made for consumers. I think that is an important part of making sure that what might be good for the sellers of insurance is also good for the people who purchase them and that their rights are adequately protected.
Mr. INSLEE. I think I missed some of your testimony. You talked about access to FBI files or at least fingerprints.
Could you give us an example of why that may be important?
Mr. KREIDLER. We had a very good exampleactually, many of them, but one of them in particularwhere had an individual who was in good standing in one state that does not require a fingerprinting background check as a part of being licensed as an agent or a broker in their state, that applied for a non-resident license in the State of Washington from that state. And when we did the background checkthis is a person who completed the form and said they had no felony convictions in their history.
And when it came back, I believe the number was nine felony convictions, several of which were in the financial services area. This is somebody that obviously never responded when we pointed this out to them, so they did not attempt to get licensed in our state. But in that state where they are a resident and are an agent in good standing, they continue to do business.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think that is one reason why I think that there should be uniformity in order to achieve that producer or the agent licensing standard uniformity across the country. This is one of the things that, quite frankly, should be there in order to make sure that we do not have some bad actors out there that are going to cause some real problems for consumers.
Mr. INSLEE. Thank you.
Mr. OSE. The gentleman yields back.
The gentleman from California?
Mr. MILLER OF CALIFORNIA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is an issue that I have great passion about. I used to be on the legislature in California and the insurance commission. And we have talked about things. And I think you have been very articulate talking about insurance regulations and the need for more efficiency and uniformity and basically to become more effective to consumers.
And in the past 5 years, I have grown more passionate about the concept of an optional federal charter. And I know you disagree with that.
So talking in the direction you are about coming up with some form of uniformity, although it seems like legislatures have been a barrier to that in a past, and effort toward a system that is more systematic in reforms and regulatory uniformity from state to state to accomplish what you are talking about, sounds good. But I have a letter from John Giramendi in California. And he is not interested in this.
So in order to have some form of national uniformity in the industry, you have to have an agreement that everybody is going to be willing to participate. Now in an optional federal charter, it is optional.
If an insurance company wants to be an optional federally chartered insurance firm, like banks are, they can. If they want to be a state, they can.
But how do you expect to achieve any kind of uniformity based on what you said in your opening comments? And I applaud you for your concept. I do not disagree.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But how do you expect to have any form of uniformity when states like California, with large populations, have already announced their opposition to this concept?
Mr. KREIDLER. One thing I would point out is that several of the very large states are already in the process of considering an interstate compact. And I think it is only a matter of timeshortlyof being able to convince their legislatures to participate, particularly now that we have the product standards.
It has been introduced in the State of New York. It is going to be introduced in Florida and Texas.
I think we are going to see a number of those larger states coming in. At some point, there may be a need to address the problem federally to make sure that some of the outliers come in, if in fact that happens.
Mr. MILLER OF CALIFORNIA. So you are acknowledging that there might be a little more requirement of a federal participation in this process as it goes along?
Mr. KRIEDLER. I think if you get to the point where you have that almost near unanimous already, it may be necessary. There are always legislatures that can be a little bit more cantankerous in addressing uniformity than others. They had the same kind of problems that the Congress has among its members in trying to get unanimity on complex issues.
But if I might just say about the issue of an optional federal charter, we have a good example of what happens when you have the ability to effectively forum shop for regulation. In the State of Washington, there is currentlyand it has been written about in the New York Timesa large company that deals with financial services, that was going to be put out of business a decade ago in the State of Washington and really reigned in. That company made the jump to a federal regulator by being listed on one of the major exchanges and then coming out from underneath the State regulation.
They are currently, just recently within the last year, have gone into federal bankruptcy court. The major asset of that corporation is a life insurance company, which I now have in receivership.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This did not need to happen. It would have stopped way back 10 years ago if you did not have the chance to effectively shop from one forum to another.
Mr. MILLER OF CALIFORNIA. But on that vein, I will give you a great current example in Californiaworker's compensation insurance. And you have businesses lining up to move out of California. This is one example of one state, that their insurance commissioner said they do not like the approach we are taking today in this hearing.
And you have other states that are not having a problem with it. Yet even though it is recognized that it is costing us jobs, it is killing businesses in California, you have state legislators that are in a mindset that they are just not willing to change because they do not want to change.
And you have insurance commissioners who like having total control over what goes on in their state and legislators who want to have total control and do not want anybody outside influencing or dictating to them what they are going to do. How do you change that in reality, in the way you are proposing to go, when it is very optional on their part?
Mr. KREIDLER. Well, one item I can point to right now, California is participating in a memorandum of understanding with Texas and with Florida. And from the standpoint of premium volume nationally, it is a very large percentage, where you can make one filing on a life product and you will be able to be approved in three states at one time.
So they are showing progress in that
Mr. MILLER OF CALIFORNIA. Life products are much simpler. But that is a good start.
Mr. KREIDLER. Life products is where we have the biggest issue relative to uniformity across the country. Property and casualty are much more regional and state driven.
But I believe that you are going to wind up with some states, as I said, that are, just because they take a very provincial interest, who may need a nudge in order to finally get them
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MILLER OF CALIFORNIA. Or a gun.
Mr. KREIDLER. But I would not be surprised to see California, quite frankly, join the interstate compact.
Mr. MILLER OF CALIFORNIA. I am anxious to see this process as it proceeds. I applaud Chairman Baker and Oxley for starting these hearings because I have come to believe strongly in the past 5 years. Ten years ago, I did not believe it. But 5 years ago, I started to believe there was a need for an optional federal charter.
Maybe this is an option to that. And I am anxious to watch us go through the process because I believe there is a very severe problem out there nationally in this industry.
I think we need to do everything we can to help them and help consumers at the same time. They go hand in hand, the way I look at it. And so I am anxious to see any proposal that can come forward to help alleviate some of the situations we are in.
Mr. OSE. The gentleman's time has expired.
The chair would advise members we have one vote on pay parity on the floor at the moment. We have a couple more speakers, including Mr. Pomeroy, who has joined us.
The chair's pleasure is to continue for as long as we can, then we will take a short recess, to the extent we have to, and then reconvene accordingly.
The chair would recognize Ms. Maloney.
Mrs. MALONEY. First of all, I would like to welcome Mr. Serio from the great State of New York and congratulate him on his work. But I would like to ask the last speaker, if I heard you correctly, you were saying that this company that went bankrupt, it was because of moving from various charters that they went bankrupt. Is that what you are saying?
Mr. KREIDLER. What they had the option of doing is essentially moving out of state regulation by effectively coming under federal regulation that would preempt the State from having a regulatory responsibility.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. MALONEY. And then you allege that that was the reason that they were in receivership. Is that what you said?
Mr. KREIDLER. They would have been stopped 10 years ago. And the risk to ..
Mrs. MALONEY. So you feel that if it had been under the State only and not able to shopas you said, go to federal or whateverthis problem within the company would have been found. Is that what you were saying?
Mr. KREIDLER. My point would be that if you go to an optional charter, there inevitably is going to be forum shopping involved, relative to how they do business and how they believe that they will be more favorably treated. I would say this relative to insurance regulation: either leave it with the States or take it all to the federal government. But trying to find something in between will invariably open the door for that kind of forum shopping that will be a disservice overall to the financial services community.
Mrs. MALONEY. I yield my time to the distinguished former insurance commissioner from North Dakota, Earl Pomeroy. And I would like his comments on this.
Mr. POMEROY. Thank you very much, Congresswoman Maloney. I just have a couple of observations. And I know we have a vote on.
I believe state insurance commissioners have started down a dead end by advancing multistate compacts. I have never seen one passed. Superintendent Serio, if you can get the New York legislature to adopt participation in a multistate compact for purposes of bringing their filing standards into line with other states, that would be one tremendous legislative achievement. And I will be shocked.
But I look forward to seeing it. So much has been achieved over the 150 years of State-based regulation by state coordination: common policy forms, something as sophisticated as common risk-based analyses for purposes of determining reserve requirements, a national network of guarantee funds to help consumers when companies are insolvent. All of it achieved without actually requiring each state legislative body to take their own step.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC When we established the standards, legislative action was required at the State level if a state was to comply with the standards and get the beneficial treatment that flowed from that. But to actually expect through the compact route we are going to get uniformity, I think is unlikely.
You have also given a flat bulls-eye for Congress to evaluate, in a simplistic and maybe not particularly fair representation, what is occurring at the State levels. They will see three, four states and they will say, ''It does not work,'' without really looking further at all that has been achieved through the State level.
On the other hand, I believe that the chairman's proposals would require members like the sitting chair, Congressman Ose, to vote at the federal level to lift state consumer protection authority from their state insurance commissioner. That also, I believe, is a stretch, to believe that that is likely to be achieved federally.
Over my 8 years of being insurance commissioner in North Dakota, I came to believe that the regulatory format designed initially by Dr. Phil O'Connor, who will be testifying in the next level, and implemented in Illinois, did achieve a very functional marketplace. The results were evident through the way that market worked. I admired it.
I am not sure it is Congress's job to save a state from themselves. I generally like to think the market takes care of this.
If I screwed up when I was insurance commissioner, we had capacity ramification. I had to un-screw up so that the market came back.
I think that we do achieve some significant tension to make states move toward having their markets function. I think people looking for a federal response that is going to save them from state legislatures are unlikely to see it, especially in short order. I mean, it is just unlikely that we are going to preempt, I believe, such a wholesale authority of consumer protection that exists at the State level.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On the other hand, I think there are other parts of the chairman's proposals that maybe do allow us an expedited way to truly put in place a uniform speed to access system without this cumbersome, unwieldy and unlikely state compact. And that is where these talks could really have some interesting outcomes as they proceed.
Thank you for indulging me, Mr. Chairman. And I yield back.
Mr. OSE. The gentlelady yields back.
If the gentleman from North Dakota wishes, we would be willing to give him time, having been so patient.
Mr. POMEROY. That is very kind. And I would be interestedquickly, because we are going to have to run and vote and it is a good long ways from here.
Mr. OSE. We have about 7 minutes to go on the vote.
Mr. POMEROY. President Csiszar, I would like your response to my thoughts.
Mr. CSISZAR. I do not think anyone has any misconceptions, certainly the commissioners, how difficult it is going to be to get the interstate compact in place. However, the very fact that I think, under the umbrella of the interstate compact, we are developing national standards essentially for products, those national standards will be there regardless of whether a state adopts the interstate compact or not.
So the collaborative effort that you are describing that has worked in the past is not precluded by an interstate compact. In fact, I think it will be eased.
One of the problems we have had with even discussing the interstate compact is the fact that we do not have the standards to go with that compact, okay? But the compact and the standards, in a sense, are independent of each other. So the collaborative effort that we can undertake once we know what those standards are going to look like, that can continue, I think.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But at the same time, the fact that you have pressure coming here from Washington does not hurt, so far as we are concerned, you know?
Mr. POMEROY. Superintendent Serio, what do you think?
Mr. SERIO. Since the interstate has been introduced in the State senate at the request of the insurance department, I have maybe a little more faith that the New York legislature will look at it. And I think one of the things we have tried to do and by the NAIC taking on the interstate compact as a model, that was actually originally put forward by NCOIL so many years ago, we have taken some of the mystery out of it.
In New York, which is involved in dozens of interstate compacts, both policymaking and operational, I think we are working towards reducing the mystery of this as an insurance policymaking mechanism. So I think on the one hand, we have good hope. Three states have already passed it and signed it into law. I think there are two or three others that have it on their governor's desk or will be shortly.
So within its first 4 months, it has had some positive developments. But as Commissioner Csiszar said, the bottom line is that the uniformity push is already happening. And whether it comes through an interstate compact or comes through some assistance from the Congress or just through the regular activities of the NCSL and NCOIL in the State legislatures, we are already well on our way to that uniformity standard in whatever way it manifests.
But I think the interstate compact, because it has been done with the cooperation of the NCSL and NCOIL and the NAIC, I think the interstate compact has a better than fair chance at this point because of that coordination, maybe for the first time, between the commissioners and the State legislators who are going to be asked to act on it.
Mr. KREIDLER. One feature here that does not require any legislative action right now is a memorandum of understanding. And we already have three of the largest states already essentially beginning the process of accepting filings for life products right now. And that is not going to require any legislative change in order to see that process work.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And they represent something like 20 to 30 percent of the premium volume in the whole country. So this is one where we are already seeing some progress in this direction.
Mr. POMEROY. See, I actually think, had interstate cooperation been based on pemorandums of understanding, as opposed to interstate compact requiring legislative action, you might have been better off. Of course, legislators want to get their hand in insurance regulation, but not for the purpose of conforming with national models, but to tinker in the business. That is what state legislators do.
Mr. OSE. The chair is going to intercede here. We have about 4 minutes.
Mr. POMEROY. I yield back. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. OSE. The gentleman yields back.
We are going to take a 5-minute recess. Mr. Baker is on his way back.
In that period of time, if we could get the second panel together. We thank the first panel for their testimony and participation. We are adjournedwe are recessed for 5 minutes.
Chairman BAKER. [Presiding.] If I can ask everyone to take seats, we will reconvene our hearing. I wish to welcome participants on our second panel. As is the usual custom, your official statement will be made part of the record.
We request that, to the extent possible, your statement to the committee be limited to 5 minutes. And be assured that members will be coming and going through the course of the afternoon.
The combination of the vote and the lunch hour, I think, has caused our numbers to be decimated a bit. But they shall return.
But not to unreasonably detain anyone, I felt it appropriate to proceed with our witness and to first welcome Mr. Ahart of the Ahart, Frinzi and Smith Agency, but appearing here today on behalf of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America. Welcome, sir.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF THOMAS AHART, AHART, FRINZI AND SMITH AGENCY, ON BEHALF OF THE INDEPENDENT INSURANCE AGENTS AND BROKERS OF AMERICA
Mr. AHART. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As mentioned, I am an insurance agent from New Jersey. I have been in the business for about 30 years. And I am also a past president of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, which I served as president from September 2001 to September 2002.
I think that being in the business for 30 years puts me in a pretty good place to speak as far as consumers and agents go. As agents, we are in between both the consumer and the companies.
We deal with companies every day. We sit and listen to consumers and work with their problems every day.
To begin, I would just like to say that the IABA strongly supports the approach that you, Mr. Chairman, and Chairman Oxley have developed. Specifically, we praise the approach of targeting the use of federal legislation to modernize the core areas of state insurance regulation. Also, we strongly support state regulation. It has worked well for years in areas including consumer protection. Consumers want and like to deal with someone in their own state who understands the problems and the needs in their specific regions.
But even though state regulation has worked well over the years, global modernization and improved technology have created demand for more uniformity among states. The demand for more uniformity has created a need to modernize state regulation.
Again, we agree with the Oxley-Baker reform road map that is using targeted, focused and limited federal legislation, while at the same time preserving state regulation.
Let me address some of the major issues in need of reform; specifically, speed to market issues and licensing issues. With respect to speed to market issues, there is a need to improve the ability of new products to be introduced.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With technology, there are a lot of businesses now that are creating new exposures for themselves that are not able to be protected because new products are not able to be approved quickly enough. And so we would like some kind of reform that helps those issues where products can be developed quicker and approved quicker.
We would look to use a file and use proposal, whereby companies could begin usingcould file a product and then use it after 30 days. It would give time for the States to still regulate, look at a product. But it would speed up the approval process.
In addition, we would like to eliminate price controls. Being from New Jersey, I have a pretty good background on price controls, especially in the auto insurance market. In the 30 years I have been in business, I can go from JUAs to excess profit laws to all kind of different laws that have created problems in availability and competition in the area of New Jersey.
This past year, we have actually had some reform, whereby some of the price restrictions have been reduced. And companies are starting to come back into the marketplace. And it is becoming better. But we definitely need more help in that area.
As far as agent and broker licensing, most states have enacted licensing reform statutes that provide reciprocity to licensed agents and brokers. However, various difficulties still remain.
Some larger states have not enacted the licensing reciprocity. And some states adopting reciprocity have deviated from the NAIC model; and therefore, are not uniform.
The bottom line is it is still very tough and time consuming to be licensed in multiple states. And yet, there is an increased demand from our consumers, both personal and businesses, to be licensed in multistateswhere they are having branches in different states, where people are buying homes in different states. And we are continually asked to be licensed in more states to comply with their needs.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition, insurance companies still have a very difficult time expanding their licensing into other states. And it often takes yearsnot weeks or months.
Therefore, we propose the following with respect to agent broker and company licensing. With respect to national license reciprocity, we urge the subcommittee to expand the NARAB reciprocity mandate to all states.
Next, we need licensing uniformity. Additional uniformity is necessary in certain licensing areas. And a targeted federal proposal should help establish greater consistency for agents and brokers.
Third, we seek the outright preemption of all remaining mandatory counter-signature laws and similar barriers to effective multistate commerce. And with respect to insurance company licensing, we support a move toward a uniform set of standards or a common process for licensure of insurance companies that would apply in every jurisdiction.
If Congress enacts the law based on the road map, IABA recognized that a dispute mechanism is necessary to address disputes that arise under the act. Some arbiter will likely be needed to determine whether the States are acting in a manner consistent with a new law.
We believe in any such process or mechanism must be limited in its power and authority. Also, any new structure must not become a back door federal regulator.
Perhaps more than any other area, we would be interested in working with the committee on this portion of a proposal. And we look forward to working with you to make sure that no federal entity takes on any formal regulatory or licensing power.
So in conclusion, we would just like to say that we recognize that there are problems within this current state regulation. We believe strongly in the fundamentals of it. There are good things about state regulation.
We believe in your road map, which would attack specific areas; namely, speed to market issues and licensing issues. And with that, we thank you for letting us testify and look forward to helping you put together any formal legislation.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Thomas Ahart can be found on page 80 in the appendix.]
Chairman BAKER. Thank you for your statement and your assistance.
Our next witness is Mr. Roger Singer, senior vice president and general counsel of OneBeacon, who appears here today on behalf of the American Insurance Association. Welcome, sir.
STATEMENT OF ROGER SINGER, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL COUNSEL, ONEBEACON, ON BEHALF OF AMERICAN INSURANCE ASSOCIATION
Mr. SINGER. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you. As you said, my name is Roger Singer. I am the general counsel of OneBeacon insurance group. It is a multi-line property and casualty insurance companycompanies, really. We have 28 companies in our group, licensed in all 50 states.
We sell products throughout the country, but mainly in the northeastern states. On behalf of OneBeacon and the American Insurance Association, thank you very much for inviting us to testify here today.
I also want to thank the subcommittee for leading the charge on the fundamental issue of state insurance regulatory reform. The concepts outlined in the subcommittee's action plan, particularly speed to market, if implemented correctly with enforceable national oversight, will protect consumers while bringing them the important benefits of an open, competitive marketplace.
I have been general counsel at OneBeacon for 15 years now. Prior to that, from 1987 to 1989, I was the Massachusetts insurance commissioner and spent approximately 10 years before that in various state government roles and I worked for the Federal Trade Commission on trade issues.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have agonized on both sides of this issue, both in the public sector and the private sector. And I hope my perspective will be useful to the Subcommittee.
OneBeacon's national scope and regional focus gives us experience with the full range of insurance regulatory systems employed and administered by the States and the District of Columbia. Let me start with a few numbers we assembled.
Fifty-six, the number of U.S. insurance regulatory jurisdictions operating independently of one another. And I think I have personally dealt with 53.
Five hundred and fifty, the number of state requirements relating to the filing and review of rates and forms. Four hundred and fifty-four, the number of filings made by OneBeacon last year, just in our eight core states in the Northeast.
Add up the months and even years that it takes to review a company rate or form filing and one does not have to be an actuary to calculate the cumulative inefficiency the State insurance regulatory process imposes on the marketplace.
With this regulatory backdrop, I would like to focus my remarks today on three concepts outlined in the subcommittee's action plan: first and most important, speed to market; that is rate and form approval; secondly, national oversight; and third, company licensing.
Like other AIA members, OneBeacon supports a market-based optional federal charter system as the best way to achieve needed reforms with the least disruption to the State system. However, we are pragmatic about the pace of reform in the short term.
Done correctly, with appropriate reliance on market forces, the types of targeted reform the subcommittee is advancing could and would lead to national uniformity, reduced regulatory red tape and enhanced consumer protection. We understand the subcommittee's goal with respect to rates is to eliminate price controls and to instead rely on Illinois-style free market competition.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We applaud the goal because government price controls do not work to the benefit of anyone, especially the consumers of the insurance product. The Massachusetts automobile insurance market provides a stark example of the unintended consequences of price controls.
In Massachusetts, auto insurance rates are set by the insurance commissioner unless the commissioner determines that sufficient competition exists to assure that rates will not be excessive. The determination often turns on whether a finding of competition will result in immediate rate increases.
Inevitably, because of the political risk that rates might rise in the short term, such a finding is never made and rates continue to be set by the commissioner. This was the case when the very first decision under this law was made in the 1970s. It was the case when I was insurance commissioner in the late 1980s and is still the case today.
There is plenty of evidence that eliminating Massachusetts' price control system would result, over the long term, in lower auto premiums and a healthier market. Compared to Illinois, Massachusetts falls far short on a number of counts, including average annual auto insurance premium, number of drivers in the residual market and the number of insurers actively competing for business in the State.
These differences are not surprising. Price controls can have the politically expedient short-term effect of holding insurance rates down. However, if left in place, the controls act as an artificial pressure cooker that hurts competition, masks systemic costs and leads to higher prices.
I would like to spend just a minute talking about the regulation of policy forms. In jurisdiction with strict product controls, government review can take months or years from filing to approval. Product denials are often based on unpublished, arbitrary desk drawer rules with tenuous connections to state law.
This process is especially frustrating for companies trying to roll out products regionally or nationally. The system provides no incentives for insurance product innovation. In turn, consumers have fewer marketplace choices and no real basis to compare insurers by the products they offer.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Three principles should underlie the Subcommittee's review of policy form regulation. First, if premarket form regulation must be retained as a general rule, a market-friendly construct should be adopted, whether that is an informational filing or file and use system.
Second, government review of forms must be based on clear and specific statutory standards.
Third, commercial policy forms should not be subject to any state review or approval. Any commercial policy holder should be able to buy insurance products tailored to their specific needs. And those products should be available without delay.
I believe you will hear concurrence on this point from my colleagues representing RIMS and CIAB. The reason I brought this large stack of paperit is not my testimonyon the table here today is when I came down here, I went looking for a filing that represented a product from my company.
We have a subsidiary that is a true Internet-based auto company. And it probably would not beit is notattractive to all consumers. But tech-savvy consumers like it.
It is truly Internet-based. You just go on the web. You do not talk to anybody on the phone. You buy your product. You get your policy and print it on your home printer.
You pay by credit card. Many consumers would not be comfortable with that; but many are. And we are building a pretty good business.
However, for that companyit is called Esurance, a sub of OneBeaconfor Esurance to do business in this state and each of the 50 states where it wants to file a formand one of the advantages of the Internet is that it can make changes quickly and consumers can benefit from changes in product design and changes in price and the efficiency of Internet productionit has to make a filing.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And this is an example of a filing recently made by Esurance in one state. If it wants to change to a new product, it has to make a filing in all 50 states.
Some will be more extensivenot manythan this; and some will be simpler. But the issue is that this product that is available to customers all over the country is tied down to a pretty antiquated system of form approval.
Turning to the issue of national oversight, attainment of the subcommittee's goals for true marketplace reform will require strong national enforcement of preemptive federal standards. It is unrealistic and raises constitutional problems to expect states to enforce federal standards, let alone to enforce them uniformly and consistently.
Insurer experience with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 provides ample evidence of the need for national oversight and dispute resolution. As a result, we strongly encourage creation of a national enforcement mechanism.
Finally, I will just say a word or two about company licensing. I am often involved in getting companies licensed. And as we have heard here earlier today, it is a process that varies from state to state.
Many states have windows in which you have to apply. And if you do not make the window that year, you wait until the next year.
What is being decided by the State in almost every casewell, what should be being decidedis simply whether the company is appropriatea very, very important decisionand solvent and, financially and in other ways, responsible to write insurance in the State. For that to have to be decided individually by 50 different states with strapped resources seems to us an extreme inefficiency, which does nothing to benefit insurance consumers.
Finally, I would just like to say I want to thank the subcommittee for addressing these much-needed reforms in key areas. And thank you for the opportunity to testify. And of course, I would be willing to answer any questions.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Roger Singer can be found on page 171 in the appendix.]
Chairman BAKER. Thank you, Mr. Singer.
Our next witness is Mr. Albert R. Counselman, president and CEO, Riggs, Counselman, Michaels & Downs, Incorporated, appearing today on behalf of the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers. Welcome, Mr. Counselman.
STATEMENT OF ALBERT COUNSELMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, RIGGS, COUNSELMAN, MICHAELS AND DOWNS, INC., ON BEHALF OF THE COUNSEL OF INSURANCE AGENTS AND BROKERS
Mr. COUNSELMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am Skip Counselman. And as the CEO of RCM&D in Baltimore, I represent an organization which is Maryland's largest insurance brokerage. We provide risk management, commercial and personal insurance and employee benefit programs to a wide range of clients.
I also represent today the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, as a past chairman of that organization, the CIAB. We heartily embrace your road map, Mr. Chairman, to insurance regulatory reform.
Years of work have led to this proposal. And we believe it lays the groundwork for aggressive reforms that will go a long way toward providing desperately needed modernization in insurance regulation.
The pace of financial services convergence and globalization are far outstripping the pace of individual reform efforts by the States. Even though the States have made some strides in simplification and streamlining, as we have heard this morning, thanks to what you, Mr. Chairman, and to Chairman Oxley and to what Congresswoman Kelly have accomplished in the enactment of NARAB, there still remain glaring irregularity and inefficiencies despite those efforts.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are three major areas that could greatly benefit from immediate reforms, all of which are consistent with your road map. The first is to make the NARAB licensing reciprocity requirements apply to all 50 states.
The NAIC, despite its reform agenda, is not in a position to force dissenting states to adhere to any standards it sets. We believe the reform proposal should build on the NARAB provisions, taking it a step further by mandating that all 50 states enact uniform licensure laws or laws permitting an agent or a broker licensed in one state to be licensed in all other states on a reciprocal basis and preempting all state insurance laws that discriminate against non-resident agents and brokers.
While life is better for insurance firms such as ours because of NARAB, we still have to maintain in our firm 458 licenses. And there are many, many inconsistencies, none of which really have anything to do with standards of professionalism.
We encourage and are certainly for the highest standards. As we heard testimony this morning about the need for FBI record access that some states require, we certainly also agree with that, that we want the highest standards to apply throughout the country. So let's finish that job.
The second area is speed to market. My firm sells and services primarily commercial property and casualty insurance. This part of the industry faces severe challenges, due to a number of factors: 9/11, increased liabilities for asbestos, toxic mold, D&O liability, medical malpractice, years of declining investment returns and consistent negative underwriting results.
The end result has been increased prices and declining availability of insurance, all of which is exacerbated by the current state-by-state system. The worst examples are the policy form and rate pre-approval requirements still in use in many states.
More than a dozen states have completely deregulated the commercial marketplace for rates and forms. But many other states still have them.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We think the Illinois model is a good model. One quick example that I have personal experience with, with our association, we sponsor a captive insurance company that provides errors and omissions insurance to 65 of our member firms who are located in 35 states.
A couple of years ago, we needed to raise our rates and revise our coverage form to broaden the coverage. We had to refile the form in all of those states. And it took 2 years to get the approvals.
It also cost us over $200,000 to achieve the refiling. That was a waste of resources.
As I said, we support the complete deregulation of rates and forms for commercial lines of insurance and elimination of command and control regulation. Mr. Shays asked earlier: how do consumers suffer from overregulation? And the answer is: both in cost and in limitation of the insurance coverage forms that are available as a result of the slow process that we go through to get a rate regulation filing done.
Third, we think you should explore ways that alternatives to the traditional regulated marketplace can be fostered to provide a viable alternative for sophisticated insurance consumers. Increasingly, business is done through the surplus lines marketplace, which offers coverage for risks that are not available from admitted carriers.
The regulatory structure governing surplus lines coverage is a morass. When activity encompasses multiple states, regulatory compliance is almost impossible. The rules, particularly with respect to collection of premium taxes, are conflicting and inconsistent.
There should be incentives or requirements for the States to rationalize their irrational surplus lines requirements. As an example, this is 36 pages from the State of New Jersey, available on their website, which explains how to do a surplus lines filing premium tax filing, which is something agents and brokers must do when they place a surplus lines policy.
It is very specific with their instructions, including exactly how to keep the pages in order and how to number each item on each page. That would be fine if all 50 states abided by these same rules. But unfortunately, there are different rules in every state.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, we think that risk retention groups have created a very good alternative market for liability coverage. And we would urge you to expand the risk retention act to allow coverage of property damage, as well as liability exposures.
Mr. Chairman, all of the regulatory modernization efforts put forward by the NAIC in the past years have been the direct result of major external threatseither the threat of federal intervention or the wholesale dislocation of regulated markets. The states' progress on producer licensing reform, thanks to NARAB, is a prime example of this.
We believe your road map is an excellent vehicle to keep the pressure on and force the States to make the reforms necessary to address the glaring deficiencies of the State system.
Thanks for the opportunity to work with you and your fine staff as you move forward. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Albert R. Counselman can be found on page 86 in the appendix.]
Chairman BAKER. Thank you, Mr. Counselman.
Our next witness is Anthony Dickson, president, NJM Insurance Group, appearing here today on behalf of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. Welcome.
STATEMENT OF ANTHONY DICKSON, PRESIDENT, NJM INSURANCE GROUP, ON BEHALF OF PROPERTY CASUALTY INSURERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
Mr. DICKSON. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, members of the committee. I am Tony Dickson, president of the New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group and here as chairman of the board of governors of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
PCI is the most diverse national property casualty trade association. This diversity provides PCI with a unique perspective on insurance regulation.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC PCI's board of governors unanimously authorized the filing of our statement and my presence here as an indication of our willingness to continue to serve as a resource to this committee. As an example of PCI's membership diversity, Mr. Chairman, the NJM Insurance Group writes 99 percent of its business in New Jersey, with premiums in 2003 totaling just under $1.3 billion.
NJM is one of the largest property casualty insurers in the State. New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company operates in the fashion of a mutual insurer, returning dividends to its policy holders.
PCI members share the common vision that competition and market-oriented regulation is in the best interest of the industry and the customers that they serve. PCI members believe that the current insurance regulatory system must improve.
Mr. Chairman, PCI shares your goal of strengthening and improving the State regulatory system without creating an optional federal charter, a federal regulator or a dual federal-state regulatory system. PCI believes that the greatest chance to achieve our shared goal of State-based improvement is a narrowly targeted package designed to address the core problem of the current regulatory system: namely, antiquated price controls that impose barriers to market-based pricing systems.
While other areas of reform are important, the single most significant element, overshadowing all other reform proposals, is the goal of insuring a truly competitive marketplace with open rate competition. PCI urges the subcommittee to place its highest priority on these reforms.
PCI supports open competition rating laws, as exemplified by the Illinois model, as the most desirable approach to rate regulation for the entire industry. Studies verified that consumers in states where competition is the primary regulator of price benefit from expanded choice, innovative pricing and improved insurance availability.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For example, Illinois, which has had competition-based pricing since 1971, has an exceptionally healthy personal lines insurance market. More recently, South Carolina has shown that competitive market reforms produce significant benefits for consumers.
In 2003, Mr. Chairman, my own state of New Jersey enacted a package of reforms of its automobile insurance regulatory system. Led by Governor McGreevy, legislators of both parties and supported by Commissioner Bakke, the Automobile Insurance Competition and Choice Act included: better information and choices for consumers, toughened anti-fraud measures, enhancements of the expedited rate filing statute, changes in the excess profits law and other positive regulatory provisions.
We are already seeing some improvements in competition as a result of these reforms. And New Jersey drivers now have access to more companies and, in several instances, at reduced rates. PCI urges the inclusion of the strongest open competition provisions in any reform legislation.
The existence of regulatory rules that have not been codified or formally adoptedoften referred to as ''desk drawer rules''is also particularly frustrating to insurers. PCI supports the elimination of these inefficient and arbitrary obstacles to effective market operation.
Access to credible aggregate prospective loss data through required reporting by all insurers is essential for both small and large companies to ensure effective and competitive markets. PCI commends the chairman for reaffirming the McCarren-Ferguson Act, including the limited antitrust exemption for such loss-cost data.
We appreciate the chairman's efforts to pursue a coordinated system of standardized market conduct review based on market analysis to identify a pattern of abuse and on-site review of company systems and controls. PCI believes that market analysis must be the cornerstone of any market conduct action.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With respect to producer licensing, PCI urges the subcommittee to reduce regulatory burdens by providing a single level of licensing. Varying state standards for company licensing can serve as a market entry impediment and limit consumer choice. As a result, PCI supports efforts to streamline market entry.
With respect to enforcement, Mr. Chairman, there is no clear consensus among the property casualty industry on the appropriateness of a federal or NAIC supervisory or management role in insurance regulation. However, all agree that the greatest threat to efficient markets is dual or multiple layers of regulation.
Creating new oversight institutions or layers of reporting will drive up the cost of insurance products, make it harder for smaller companies to compete and ultimately reduce consumer choice. Attempts to unnecessarily expand the regulatory or oversight role of the NAIC or to create new or duplicative layers of quasi-regulatory authority at the federal level are almost certain to introduce needless controversy into any reform measure.
Mr. Chairman, PCI stands ready to work with the committee on State-based insurance reforms that achieve our shared goals, as fully outlined in our prepared statement, and avoid duplicative layers of regulation.
Thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of Anthony Dickson can be found on page 107 in the appendix.]
Chairman BAKER. Thank you very much, sir.
Our next witness is a returning veteran witness: Mr. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America. Welcome, Mr. Hunter.
STATEMENT OF J. ROBERT HUNTER, DIRECTOR OF INSURANCE, CONSUMER FEDERATION OF AMERICA
Mr. HUNTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Bachus. I am Bob Hunter. And I am the director of insurance for CFA. And I formerly served as federal insurance administrator under Presidents Ford and Carter and as Texas insurance commissioner.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Attached to my statement is a letter signed by over 80 groups, representing consumers, labor organizations, low-income Americans, housing groups and minorities, asking Chairman Oxley to reconsider the road map for legislation to override state regulation. The standards proposed in the road map are, in our view, startling in their anti-federalist sweep.
They do away with decades of deliberations by state legislators, largely eliminating their role in the future in preempted areas. The road map would override the vote of the people of California in adopting the regulatory system of Proposition 103 and regulators would become functionaries carrying out federal standards.
How Congress would force state compliance with these edicts without the threat of a federal takeover, which was also promised, is unclear to me. The road map does not tell us what the sticks or carrots might be to entice a commissioner to enforce a federal standard that he or she might think would disadvantage the consumers of the State.
The road map makes grievous error, we think, in overriding all state price controls. It ignores the differences between insurance and other products.
And serious attempt to increase competition in the insurance industry and protect consumers must take into account these differences. Some of the steps that must be taken to ensure that free markets could function well are first, a degree of imposed uniformity of insurance forms is required for consumers to understand and compare the complex legal document that is the insurance policy. People cannot read it and compare them. They just do not understand them.
Second, better information about policy prices, the level of service and financial soundness must be provided to consumers, as the NAIC also said in their written statement. Unlike other products, insurance has inelastic demand because states require auto insurance and lending institutions require property insurance of businesses and individuals.
If competition is to be effective, supply and demand must be balanced, perhaps by requiring limits on underwriting such as mandating offers of insurance to drivers who meet good driver qualifications and to home and business owners who meet building codes. The road map proposes none of these things to make competition work for the benefit of consumers.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It would leave consumers, including small businesses, vulnerable. And I have to remind you that, of the 5.7 million businesses in America, 3.4 million or 60 percent have fewer than five employees. And therefore, they are not sophisticated buyers of insurance with risk managers and so on. They really need help.
Other people who are at risk are low-and moderate-income consumers and minorities. The road map, I think, puts them at more risk.
A crucial aspect of rate regulation that the road map would eliminate is the approval of classifications, which is part of price regulation. Many states have moved to ban and limit the use of credit scoring, for example, or redlining by certain territorial definitions and control of other criteria that disadvantaged poor and minorities; the latest one being that we are going to charge you more if you previously bought the limit of liability required by the State, but did not buy higher limits, we are going to charge you more for that.
A lot of states are very upset about that. But who would stop that under the road map? These protections would be eliminated.
Insurers would also be free to imagine whatever classes they would choose, including intrusive classes, that are on the horizon, such as the use of the human genome for life insurance. Congress has already acted on health. But life insurance could be human genome-based.
And tracking drivers with global positioning satellite systems for auto insurance, that has already been tested.
The road map points to Illinois as a regulatory model. There are almost no states with fewer protections for consumers than Illinois.
Illinois does not regulate rates at all, under its non-system, as I am sure Mr. O'Connor will tell you. It is a non-system because the Illinois legislature did not pass it; they just became deadlocked and the existing legislation expired under sunset.
Since 1989, in Illinois, auto insurance rates have risen by 35 percent, greater than the national average of 30 percent, while California's rates, under the prior approval system put into effect by a vote of the citizens of the State, have fallen by eight percent. That is like 45 percent difference between California and Illinois.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Prior to modernizing its system, California had the same old, tired deregulatory system that the road map now proposes for all states. America deserves better than the weakest consumer protection. Americans deserve the best.
If you go forward with the road map, we would urge you to look at the nation's best system, California, as your model.
Under the road map, businesses would benefit from a single choice of law, probably the home state of the policy holder. But if a state tries to attract large corporations by weakening its laws, it could be to the detriment of its residents and consumers across the country.
You should also be made aware, as I have told you this before Mr. Chairman, that as you move on these areasand I think it is good that you do movebut as you move, some good changes are occurring and some bad changes. Consumers support changes that get rid of unnecessary red tape like yellow pages and pink pages and all that. We do not like that either. We pay for it.
And we have helped work at the NAIC, with coming up with 30-day limits on how long it would take to approve policies and so on. We are for all that.
But we are very worried about harmful change. States do not always act because they think it is proper, because insurers are telling them the only way to keep their support, to head off a federal takeover, is to gut consumer protections. And that is dangerous. And we hope that the subcommittee would speak out against that sort of activity.
I have responded to your three questions in my printed testimony, Mr. Chairman. In a nutshell, CFA supports expanding the risk retention act to spur the creation of private alternatives to overpriced insurance that occurs in period hard markets.
We also offer a number of proposals to improve uniformity of regulation and protect consumers. The implementation of national standards should not be done in a way that stifles innovation of the States or undermines needed regulatory variation. Thus, CFA supports minimum national standards that would improve uniformity and better protect consumers, while allowing states to exceed those minimum standards.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Some of the model bills proposed by NAIC and NCOIL would provide adequate minimum consumer protection at the national level, as I indicate in my testimonythings like getting rid of the final counter-signature law problems. We would support deregulation of property casualty rates for truly large commercial risks, as long as small-and medium-sized businesses were protected.
And we would consider endorsing the NCOIL market conduct model bill if and when NAIC adopts it and we then discuss together how to make sure that works well.
Finally, I analyzed the road map's concern with property casualty profitability and the fear of a collapse in my written statement. And I conclude there is no chance of that happening.
On behalf of the over 80 groups that signed the letter, I ask that this subcommittee not move forward with the ill-advised road map concept. CFA looks forward to working with the members of the subcommittee and with state regulators on proposals that will improve uniformity of regulation and speed to market without sacrificing consumer protections. Unfortunately, the road map does not achieve that balance.
Thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of J. Robert Hunter can be found on page 116 in the appendix.]
Chairman BAKER. Thank you, Mr. Hunter.
Our next witness is Ms. Janice Ochenkowski. Did I pronounce that correct?
STATEMENT OF JANICE OCHENKOWSKI, VICE PRESIDENT EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, RISK AND INSURANCE MANAGEMENT SOCIETY, INC.
Ms. OCHENKOWSKI. Absolutely.
Chairman BAKER. Thank you. Vice president, external affairs, Risk and Insurance Management Society, Incorporated. Welcome.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. OCHENKOWSKI. Thank you. And good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Bachus.
Mr. name is Janice Ochenkowski. And I am the vice president of external affairs for the Risk and Insurance Management Society, known as RIMS. It is the largest professional organization for the risk management community.
In addition, I am also a senior vice president responsible for risk management at Jones Lang LaSalle, which is a global commercial real estate company based in Chicago. And I have been working there for over 20 years.
I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today on the issue of insurance choices for consumers. RIMS is in a unique position to participate in this hearing, as we represent commercial consumers of insurance that we have all heard about so much today.
RIMS members, which number over 4,000, support the advancement of efficient insurance purchasing abilities. RIMS membership spans the country and consists of entities of all different industries and sizes, including 84 percent of the Fortune 500 companies, but also 950 small businesses, which we define as those with fewer than 500 employees.
Nearly 2 years ago, RIMS spoke before this committee on the different insurance vehicles that are available to risk managers in their search to provide as much protection as possible for their companies' assets. We made a case for immediate and significant reform of the State insurance system.
RIMS also expressed its hope that one day an optional federal insurance charter would be made available for insurers operating in different states.
It is still RIMS' belief that an optional federal charter will streamline insurance purchasing for consumers and make the U.S. insurance system significantly more efficient. However, the reality is that some view an optional federal charter as too extreme a solution. And it seems to be an idea whose time has not yet come.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman Oxley and Subcommittee Chairman Baker's proposals to reform state regulation are reasonable and attainable. And they will provide a much-needed opportunity for national uniformity and free market competition, without excess regulation.
RIMS fully supports the Oxley-Baker reform proposal and urges Congress to enact these reforms as soon as possible.
In this increasingly competitive marketplace, commercial insurance consumers like myself need choices, flexibility and speed. Operating throughout the country as the insurance buyer for Jones Lang LaSalle, I witness every day the numerous inefficiencies in the current state insurance system.
Insurance policies have pages of state regulatory language that do not really affect the consumer and do not provide protection. These inefficiencies must be addressed. And I applaud the members of this committee for presenting us with a meaningful blueprint for reform.
RIMS also recognizes the efforts of the NAIC in moving the U.S. system fully into the 21st century. The NAIC has made real strides in personal lines insurance reform. But much more needs to be done for commercial consumers.
You see, the NAIC can only develop model laws; it cannot force state legislatures to adopt them. And even when models are adopted, inevitably, changes are made, which results in 50 different approaches to the regulation of the industry.
The Oxley-Baker proposal offers a chance to bring the best of state regulation and federal oversight together in a way that will preserve the State's role, yet streamline and modernize the system for the benefit of the consumers.
I would like to address some areas of concern for RIMS and the risk management community, including market rates and forms and lead state concept for multistate companies. Several years ago, there was momentum at the NAIC to adopt a model law and regulation with respect to commercial lines and form deregulation. The NAIC adopted one short version of commercial lines regulation; however, a more comprehensive version has not been adopted.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A few states have no requirements at all for filing rates and forms for commercial lines of insurance. RIMS supports the Oxley-Baker principle that a uniform standard be adopted that provides for free market competition of rates and forms for commercial lines of insurance.
Our experience is that in a free, open and competitive market, risk managers will be able to negotiate the best rates, the best terms and conditions for coverage needed by our companies. RIMS believes that a national standard of freedom from form regulation should encompass surplus lines policies as well.
Currently, surplus lines policies and rate forms are not regulated by the States. However, we think it would be prudent to include freedom from rate and form regulation in any federal statute governing commercial property and casualty insurance.
My home state of Illinois has been cited frequently as a model for commercial lines modernization. In Illinois, the insurance market is strong and competitive. And insurance is widely available for consumers.
Some states have requirements that, before an insurance buyer can obtain insurance from a surplus line market, a diligent search of authorized insurers must be made to determine if insurance is available. We believe commercial consumers should be allowed to access the surplus lines market without having to make this determination.
RIMS recommends that legislation permit commercial consumers to purchase insurance from any eligible authorized insurer without making a diligent search of authorized insurers, as required by some state laws. Most RIMS member companies are entities like Jones Lang LaSalle that do business throughout the United States. In placing insurance, we as risk managers have to consider all of our exposures, no matter where they are located.
When we purchase insurance, however, we are subject to the individual state requirements with respect to our exposures in individual states, even if it is something as minor as a single vehicle that is a part of a large fleet program. RIMS supports the Oxley-Baker concept of a leading state regulator for commercial policies covering multistate exposures.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Under this concept, the State of the company's principal place of business would govern the insurance transaction, including the terms and conditions of the policy and the requirements that the producer be licensed.
Finally, I would like to address the issue of a federal enforcement mechanism to ensure state compliance with the proposed federal standards. The Oxley-Baker proposal calls for a federal coordinator with little or no real influence to work with the proposed federal-state advisory council.
RIMS supports the concept of a federal coordinator, but believes that for national uniformity to work, this individual should have some authority to determine that state laws comply with federal uniform standards. Obviously, this will be a sensitive area, yet one that must be addressed if these reforms are to be given a chance at producing national uniformity and free market competition without excess regulation.
RIMS looks forward to working with your committee and the Congress on these critical issues. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I appreciate your time, interest and leadership and welcome any questions.
[The prepared statement of Janice Ochenkowski can be found on page 161 in the appendix.]
Chairman BAKER. Thank you very much.
And our next witness is Mr. Phillip R. O'Connor with Constellation New Energy, Incorporated. Welcome, Mr. O'Connor.
STATEMENT OF PHILLIP O'CONNOR, CONSTELLATION NEW ENERGY, INC.
Mr. O'CONNOR. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you. I am Phillip R. O'Connor. I testified in June of 2001 to your subcommittee.
I should note I am not here on behalf of Constellation New Energy. That is my day job. I am really here, having been the director of the Illinois Department of Insurance at one time and as someone who has, over the past 20 years or so, conducted a lot of research in this area of comparing prior approval and open competition states.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC First of all, just in terms of the general work of the committee, I think on the road map, its great merit is that you have managed, through the past couple of years of hearings and analyses, to separate out those issues and those areas where the States have made an enormous amount of progress the past 20 or 30 yearsfinancial solvency, guarantee funds, a whole host of thingsand on the other hand, areas where there remain quite a bit of lack of harmony, lack of uniformity and so forth.
And it seems to me that 60 years ago, in the same week that allied forces landed on Normandy and liberated Rome, the U.S. Supreme Court made the decision that insurance was interstate commerce. And this is really the first systematic review of how well the States have handled the delegation of regulatory authority that came in the wake of that decision.
And I think the committee deserves a great deal of credit for having taken that job on and for narrowing down the issues.
My job here, I think, is to talk just very quickly about the general distinctions or performance outcomes of those groups of states that are prior approval versus those groups of states that are competitive. The academic literature is really unanimous on at least one point; and that is you cannot find any systematic benefit from prior approval regulation.
Now people may be able to find some case study or some anomaly. And they may be able to point to some particular alleged benefit.
But when you compare the two systems, there is a long list of distinctions. So really, at best the finding can be that prior approval does no good; raising the question of: why is it that we do it? Why do we spend millions of dollars on it?
On the other hand, the general tendency of the academic literature is to point out that there is a variety of dimensions, upon which competitive states tend to perform better than prior approval states as a group. And I list those out in both this testimony today that I have filed and that in 2001.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But let me talk a bit about the Illinois system because it has received so much currency in the past couple of years. And I have to admit that sometimes when I hear my friend Bob Hunter talk about the Illinois system, I get the sense that my state has some evil twin out there that I am not familiar with.
The truth is, it is a system. Now Bob is right that it was an accident. But I would contend it is a happy accident. And leveling criticism at the Illinois system for having been an accident is a little bit like criticizing penicillin because it was accidentally discovered.
The point is it has workedand it has worked extraordinarily wellthe past 30 years.
Now let me identify the main elements of the Illinois system because indeed it does hang together quite well. The fundamental point is that the Illinois system has, in effect, opted for antitrust principles in insurance pricing so that insurers cannot agree or collude on their prices.
There are a variety of other things though where the State has stepped in to regulate very specific elements where the General Assembly believes that there is either potential for abuse or where they thought a particular problem had to be remedied.
Now it is true in work comp and in medical malpractice, we have competitive systems. But those are a bit different. They are like the competitive rating laws in other states where if there is a finding of non-competitiveness, there can be regulatory oversight.
The Illinois law prohibits unfair discrimination. You cannot base a rate on race, color, religion, national origin. You cannot reject an auto insurance application in the underwriting area solely by reason of a physical handicap.
And the Department of Insurance and the attorney general can pursue other unfair competitive practices related to rating that have not been specifically defined. But if they can demonstrate in court that these are unfair competitive practices, the State can step in.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For auto liability rates, a municipality cannot be subdivided for rating. That was to recognize the obvious point that in Chicagoa big citywe have one court system that applies to everybody. And therefore, liability is addressed on a unit basis there.
The General Assembly has targeted discounts in various public policy areas where there was a desire for some kind of promotion or recognitionauto anti-theft devices, senior citizen, driving training. Insurers can, through state licensed data collection agencies, mainly groups like the ISO and so forth, collect their loss data together. And they can do trended loss cost data on that.
But they cannot agree on final pricing. Only each group and insurance company have to set their own prices.
In auto and homeowner's, companies have to file with the insurance department illustrative rates so that consumers and the insurance department can take a look and get a feel for what is happening in the market. And they have to file non-renewal and new policy counts by zip code.
In addition, a cancellation and non-renewal information is filed by zip code in homeowner's, for instance, which is one of the tools we used back in the late 1970s to solve what was thought to be the residential insurance redlining problem. And we solved that back well over 20 years ago. And we did it through market mechanisms.
Our residual marketsyes, those rates indeed are prior approved. But they are prior approved on the basis that the director is going to avoid creating underpricing so that those residual markets act as a kind of magnet for too much market share. The FAIR plan and the auto assigned risk pool have infinitesimally low populations. And the work comp pool, even in the hard market in 2003, had well under 10 percent of total premium.
My point to you is that the Illinois system, in reliance on the antitrust principles of no agreements on final pricing and no regulation of final pricing, is nonetheless able to target very specific areas where a public policy case has been made and the Illinois General Assembly decides to take action or where the General Assembly has given discretion to both the director of insurance and to the attorney general to take action.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One final point on California. The interesting thing in California is, in my viewand we can argue about this all day longis that California inadvertently did in 1989 with insurance rates, freezing them at extraordinarily high levels that resulted from a peculiar set of circumstances, where that circumstance was in great part cured and the rates would have come down anyway.
They froze the rates at these very high levels and unfortunately repeated that mistake in the spring of 2001 when the State intervened in the electric market and went out and bought huge amounts of forward electricity at extraordinarily high prices; thus, freezing for consumers anomalous prices in a very short period of time.
But again, we could argue about that all day long. The point is the Illinois system has worked over 30 years extraordinarily well.
The Illinois General Assembly, whether under Republicans or Democrats, has never seen fit to pass out of either House legislation that would reverse that course.
[The prepared statement of Phillip R. O'Connor can be found on page 146 in the appendix.]
Chairman BAKER. Thank you very much. I appreciate each of your perspectives. It is very helpful.
I know, Mr. O'Connor and Mr. Hunter, we have a rather dramatic departure in the analysis of the data. And I can understand how that analysis can differ.
The one thing I would be interested to know from either or both, with regard to levels of consumer complaints, I often want to know from a company, for investment purposes, what the customer satisfaction surveys look like. If people are buying their TV sets and they are bringing them all back in 30 days for a full refund and if you knew that, you would probably have a pretty good outlook about where that company was going over the next quarter.
I think equally valuable from a regulatory perspective is how many people write letters, show up with complaints, file actions and what the history in Illinois versus California might be. If the system is working in the competitive market as well as I think it is and if the California model is convoluted and unreasonably constrained, those numbers ought to be reflective of that analysis.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Do either of you happen to have any access to information of that sort or numbers that might help build a case one way or the other?
Mr. O'CONNOR. Well, I do not have them on hand. However, I would point out that both Illinois and the California Insurance Departments operate fairly similar policyholder and consumer complaint systems.
I believe Illinois and I believe California publishes the ratios. And I believe there is a classification system in Illinois where there is an effort to identify, generally speaking, what the complaints are about.
During my period of time when we initiated those systems, generally speaking, price was not the thing people complained about, nor availability. It was usually issues about claims and that kind of thing.
One of the terrific things in Illinoisand this has been true for a long timeis that because of the system of pricing, it is extraordinarily easy for a consumer to shop right through the yellow pages and get indicative quotes over the phone from any number of agents or insurance companies. And that has been something that I think has been recognized in any number of reviews of the Illinois system.
But the Illinois Department of Insurance, I think, is perfectly ableas are other statesto provide the information that would answer your question.
Chairman BAKER. Thank you.
Mr. HUNTER. ON the NAIC website now, because we pushed for it for years and they finally have adopted itis something called a consumer information source that has the data by countrywide, by state, broken out by company, all different ways you can look at it. It has been my experience that what drives complaints more is the individual company than where they are. It is corporate culture.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For example, on my right here is New Jersey Manufacturers. Their complaint ratio is almost nonexistent. They are a very excellent company.
They come in with low rates. If I lived in New Jersey, I would be dying to be one of their insureds. They have very few complaints.
Chairman BAKER. Mr. Dickson ought to be paying you for that.
Mr. HUNTER. Same true for USAA, for example. And it does not matter whether they are in a regulated or a non-regulated environment, they always have great results.
New Jersey Manufacturers is an example of a great company does great even under tremendous regulatory constraints. And so I would say you could go on the NAIC website and get that information. I did not have that question or I would have done it for you.
But if you go on www.NAIC.org and look for the consumer information source, you can get that data.
Chairman BAKER. But could I conclude from your observation that if we had a non-regulated file a new system and you had good companies, consumer complaints would remain low? Or is it your allegation that if you go to that system, that is going to automatically trigger anti-consumerism activities?
Mr. HUNTER. I do not know that it matters a tremendous amount. A lot of the complaints have to do with claims. That is not going to change based on the type of regulation you have upfront, although better market conduct might cut those number of claims.
So that is one of the reasons we have supported here possibly federal involvement in some market conduct areas.
Chairman BAKER. Thank you.
Mr. Singer, from your perspective from a Massachusetts view, what do you attribute the loss of auto insurance providers in anythe numbers of folks who are leaving? What is it that causes them to assess the marketplace environment and withdraw from providing that coverage any longer?
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SINGER. Mr. Chairman, I think the reason that today there are only 20 insurance companies writing automobile insurance in Massachusetts, as opposed to over 250 in Illinois, is because the very, very rigid rate control has driven capital away. Companies do not want to expose their capital to what they see aswhat isa very restrictive rate control regime that at times makes it unable for them to earn a profit. And they do not want to expose their capital to that.
The result is, with so little capital available in the market, I think the impact is that rates are higher than they would be otherwise if there were more competitors. It has impacts in other markets too because we do not have personal lines, auto carriers, those large personal lines companies do not write homeowner's in the State. So it has an iterative effect on other coverages also.
Chairman BAKER. Thank you.
Mr. Counselman, you may not have this information readily available. It appears, at least from a non-expert view looking in, that states imposing price controls on auto insurance seem to have more of their consumer base in the residual marketplace than states with a free market pricing system. Can you speak to that?
Mr. COUNSELMAN. Mr. Chairman, you are correct. I do not have figures with me. But from experienceand we do write insurance and the council's members write insurance throughout the United Statesthat where there are price controls, our experience has been there is less availability of market because fewer companies are willing to operate in that given state under those circumstances.
We know, for the last number of years, commercial insurance companies and personal insurance companies have had serious profitability problems. And they have looked at where they feel they had the best opportunity to be successful and where they had the least opportunity to be successful.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And more often than not, it is in the regulated, price controlled areas they choose to exit. So there is less market available. So for those of us who are agents and brokers, we find ourselves with fewer solutions for our customers in a price controlled environment.
Chairman BAKER. Yes, Mr. Dickson?
Mr. DICKSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just wanted to amplify a bit on my neighbor's remarks here. When companies are not present in a marketplace, it causes tremendous strains on those of us who remain to try to provide a market.
New Jersey, over the years, has been an example of that. We are committed to that state. But we cannot do it alone.
We cannot be the last lifeboat in the water. There has to be a competitive marketplace. We need help. We cannot see our resources strained so that the service to our policyholders suffers.
Chairman BAKER. Thank you. My time has expired. But I will be back.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Maybe I will start with this first question. As you see the conceptual outline that is presently being floated, Mr. Hunter, what do you think the effect would be on a small business, if you have any?
Mr. HUNTER. I think it would be very dangerous for small businesses because the same kinds of problems that impact individuals impact those very small businesses. The artisan truck and so on has to go buy auto insurance for its truck.
It has to go buy property insurance for its place of business, if it has one. It has to buy comp insurance for its employees.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC They need help. They do not understand the complex product any more than the person on the street. They do not have risk managers helping them.
They are not sophisticated buyers of insurance. And therefore, they are subject to all of the same kinds of classification games or being misled into taking the wrong product. They need the same kinds of protections. We think the road map would eliminate them.
Mr. KANJORSKI. You were in the hearing room during the other panel. And I am not sure if I could distill exactly what the panel's testimony was. But I seemed to understand, for Mr. Csiszar at least, that there would be some movement in this compact situation by 2008, particularly since the Congress is giving some impetus now by even considering doing something.
But what if we were to change that perspective and instead of going with the present conceptual outline that we lay down a dual course, establish a commission to study the federalization of insurance at different levels or with different industrythe charge to prepare an optional federal charter, say for the life insurance industry, as a starterand then giving them a drop-dead date, 2007 or 2006. Either the compact is complete and in operation and effectively on its road to solving the problem so we do not have to take federal jurisdiction, or a kick-in that at least we would establish an optional federal charter for life insurance.
And the question that I really have for you from a consumer's perspective: how detrimental or how advantageous would an optional federal charter be for consumers?
Mr. HUNTER. Obviously, the devil is in the details, we have heard several times today.
Life insurance is not a simple situation. I think life insurance has a much different picture than the property casualty insurance industry. And I think the property casualty insurance industry is a millstone around the life insurance industry's neck in terms of getting federal relief.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The life insurance industry is much more uniform across the country, much more subject to having a workable federal charter. We do not like optional charters because we think that it produces the rates to the bottom.
But if you did a federal minimum standards or a federal takeover with decent consumer protections, we could consider that. But we do point out, there are differences between life insurance products that are very important to consider.
One would be, for example, term life insurance, I think you could totally deregulate. And people understand term life insurance and so on.
You get into some of the cash value products, people are very confused. They need help. They need information. It is a very difficult product.
The third product I would cite would be credit life insurance, where you have a reverse competition driving the rates up. States have had to cap those rates. You have to have some kind of a control on the rate in that area.
So they have three totally different products within the life insurance industry that would have to be dealt with in any bill that you might propose. But otherwise, I do not like the optional charter. But I do understand that life insurance has different needs.
If you divorce life insurance from property casualty, I think we could talk. I am a little worried about setting up something that would cause the race to the bottom. But if we do the consumer protections and do that somehow, then I think we would have something we could talk about, yes.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Well, I am just rolling in my mind the idea that we would use this triggering mechanism to drive the process now. If I remember, we were here about 5 years ago when the national insurance commissioners were telling us that they would have everything solved by now.
And here we are. And they moved the goalposts off another 4 years.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HUNTER. I would defer to Mr. Pomeroy, who was president of the NAIC. I think he is right. I think it is very hard to get legislators to pass all those things.
I think he is correct. I think getting a national basis would be pretty hard to do. And I do think that they need some kind of federal help.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Did anyone else on the panel have any idea of what I am talking about, this triggering mechanism to run concurrently with what the plans are by the State commissioners now? That if they do not adhere to a certain time schedule or get an accomplishment, it kicks in. But in the meantime, we get a commission working and studying how we would implement a federal charter, particularly life insurance?
Mr. COUNSELMAN. Congressman?
Mr. KANJORSKI. Yes?
Mr. COUNSELMAN. I would like to comment on that. Also from the standpoint of the small business owner, the small business owner is at a disadvantage in the market where it is difficult to obtain insurance, obviously. And one of the things that we experience with the small business owner is it is a competitive market if you are doing something that is very standard.
There are many insurance companieslarge ones and small oneswanting to write insurance for small business owners. But if you are doing something that is not so ordinary and standardlet's say software developers, for example, but there are many examplesthen it is more difficult to get insurance. And then there needs to be a mechanism to respond to those specific needs.
One of the issues is in that particular niche, there may only be 500 or 1,000 or 5,000 of them total in the United States, scattered in different states. And they need a mechanism to respond to their insurance need.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is not practical for a huge insurance company that is writing a multitude of risks to decide that they will file a special program just to satisfy a few hundred or a few thousand insureds. And so they do not. They do not respond to that need.
If they had a mechanism that they could respond to that specific needand that might be a federal charter, for examplethen that small business owner has an opportunity to buy insurance that they otherwise would not have. So that is why I would comment that a dual look at that, at the federal issue, the federal charter issue, while not eliminating what is going on in the States, can make a lot of sense and actually can protect a lot of small business owners who currently are not getting what they need.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Yes?
Mr. AHART. Just a quick comment. I am not sure why you would wait to see, like in 2007 or 2008, whether something was working or not. Under the current road map, it seems that life insurance is really no different than property and casualty and that what they need is uniformity for products, uniformity for licensing.
And that can be done through the road map by having federal legislation target that specific area which can give the uniformity that it needs through the States, therefore preempting the States on those issues. And you could get results right away, rather than waiting to see if something is happening in 2007, 2008 and then at that time doing something.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Well, I am not suggesting not doing something. But as I gather these conceptual things, there are not any triggering mechanisms or actual standards or federal charters that would be put into place. It would be merely keeping a coordinated view, advisory view of what is happening.
And my own sense is that it is not going to move many people to really get down and dirty and decide to do something about the corrective mechanism. So what I am thinking about is to build right into it; that as we are monitoring, we establish a commission to report back to the Congress with some ideal legislation that we could pass at a given time, or in fact would be enacted if not passed.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It would make it actionable within 30, 60, 90 days of the report so we could move right into the thing. But give the States this opportunity of a couple of years, but not indefinitely.
If we wait until 2008, they are going to come back and say, ''Well, we have 45 members of the compact. We are still working on five.'' Then we are back to 4 years.
It is going to take us 2, 3, 4 years to move into this area, it would seem to me. So we probably should look at doing it.
But I appreciate your responses, gentlemen.
Chairman BAKER. Thank you, Mr. Kanjorski.
Mr. KANJORSKI.and ladies.
Mr. BACHUS. Thank you, Chairman Baker. Chairman Baker's staff did some research on this, how long we have been waiting for uniformity. And at one of our very first insurance reform hearingsthis was 3 years agoMichigan Insurance Commissioner Fitzgerald stated that ''uniformity or a very high level of standardization, I think is the goal, not only of the commissioners, but certainly of the industry and would benefit the consumers of this country.''
Chairman Oxley then asked both Commissioner Fitzgerald and Ohio Commissioner Covington the question: ''If Congress sets a goal of 3 to 4 years for achieving comprehensive uniformity by NAIC for product approval, do you and Mr. Fitzgerald feel confident you can meet that goal?''
Mr. Covington responded, ''Chairman Oxley, I think we have to meet that kind of goal. As we have said before, the current system is not good for consumers. And it is not good for insurance companies. We must meet that goal.''
Then Mr. Fitzgerald responded, ''I agree with that. If over the next 2 or 3 years,''that is now gone''you have not seen significant progress, then I think there needs to be questions raised about whether we can be effective at the State level or solve the problems that you have identified and that we have identified.''
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I mean, I think that may give you an answer of what may happen in 2008. And I know that Chairman OxleyI mean, Chairman Bakerhas waited 2 or 3 years.
He has held 14 hearings. He has heard from over 100 witnesses. And yet, the unanimous opinion appears to be that NAIC has still not achieved significant uniformity, although everybody agrees it needed to be done 3 years ago and it could probably be done in 3 years.
So that is just a bit of encouraging news.
But I think that may tell you why
Chairman BAKER. Do not bring me a problem, would you please.
Mr. BACHUS. And you are still being urgedChairman Baker is still being urged to be very cautious and go slow because we are on schedule.
Let me direct this question to Mr. Ahart. Could you explain how congressional passage of targeted federal legislation that improves the core aspects of state insurance regulation would benefit your agency and consumers?
Mr. AHART. Sure. It really would get to the speed to market issues, which pretty much would be the licensing issues for both companies and agencies and also the issues on new products and on price controls. And first of all, on the licensing issues, as I mentioned in my testimony, we have more and more consumers all the time, personal lines that are buying homes in another state or on businesses that are opening branches in other states.
And even though their home base is where we are in our stateNew Jerseywe still are required to be licensed in those states to be able to handle all their needs. And they do not want to be dealing with different agents in every state that they operate in.
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And so as they expandand it is so easy to expand anymore with technologyas they expand, we need to be licensed in those states. Even businesses with worker's comp, they have people that travel that technically can bring suit in some of those other states or be hired in those states.
We need to be licensed in those states to take care of them so we would be able to provide the protection the consumers need. And it would certainly help the agency keep those consumers.
As far as the product development and the rate controls, again New Jersey is a great example. As more restrictions we have, availability is down.
And the competition is down. And pricing goes up. And our residual market goes up.
And as Congress, under this road map approach could take those specific issues and pass legislation just to address those issues and yet keep consumer protections under state regulation and things like that. So it is not doing everything. It is keeping the good stuff with the State and attacking those specific problems that need it.
Mr. BACHUS. Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Counselman, you testified about the success of NARAB. Do you think replicating that success in the area of speed to market reforms would be possible without legislative action or congressional action?
Mr. COUNSELMAN. Congressman, I think congressional action would be necessary because I think there has to be an outside impetus for states to cooperate and feel it necessary to pass the required amendments to their laws. And I think NARAB proved that that formula works because there was a specific goal set out and the States knew that they needed to accomplish that.
They have still not accomplished it in 50 states. They only had to achieve it in 29 states. And some of the largest states still have not complied in all aspects of NARAB by passing uniformity.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So even NARAB can be improved upon. But I think in speed to market and the ability to file forms, the same sort of carrot and stick relationship can be developed with the States so that we actually can make use of what the States have already established and encourage them to improve that. And that is good for the consumer.
Mr. BACHUS. Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Baker, I would just like to maybe mention, I do not know if it is a question, but I did hear two things that the panel said, one of which I would just maybe like a clarification on, and that is from Mr. Singer.
You talked about eliminating review and approval of forms for commercial lines. You sort of focused on that, not personal lines, whether I guess it is at the State level or the federal level.
But is it not equally important for personal lines for consumers to benefit? I mean, is there any valid reason for the distinction? Or are you not saying it is not necessary for individual lines?
Mr. SINGER. Congressman, I guess what I would say is that commercial line businesses, even small businesses, are more capable, I would think
Mr. BACHUS. The sophisticated buyer type?
Mr. SINGER. And we sell a lot of small business products. And we try to make that product very easy to understand. We have to sell it on price.
We have to sell it on understandability. We have to web-enable it so the agent and the customer can see it very easily.
I think there is much less justification in that contextin a business contextto require all the process that is necessary for rate and form approval. It slows up delivery of the product to the customer.
Mr. BACHUS. Would you agree that consumers would also benefit greatly from access to product without delay too?
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SINGER. I think in every case where you can reduce the process, what I really testified about was the going through the lengthy process in 50 different states to bring a product to market.
Mr. BACHUS. Yeah, and that is in commercial lines. But the same problems in personal lines would
Mr. SINGER. Yes. Same problem.
Mr. BACHUS. Okay.
Mr. DICKSON. We would certainly agree. PCI recognizes that the Illinois model is one that has worked. It would help availability in personal lines all across the country and particularly in some difficult states such as we have experienced in the past in our own state of New Jersey.
Mr. BACHUS. Okay.
And Mr. Hunter, I know you are going to respond. Let me ask you this.
Mr. HUNTER. Okay.
Mr. BACHUS. As you are responding to thatand I will close with thisyou made the Statement that minorities are disadvantaged by the use of credit scores.
Mr. HUNTER. Yes.
Mr. BACHUS. How about an individual who is a minority that has a good credit score? Is that sort of stereotyping? I mean, does that assume
Mr. HUNTER. No, there is research that shows that there is a disparate impact on minorities of the use of credit scores in insurance. Missouri has just published it. The State of Maryland did too.
Mr. BACHUS. But how about a member of a minority that has a good credit score?
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HUNTER. They would probably get a break. But the problem is, many minorities are impacted adversely by the use of credit scores.
And credit scores, there is no basis for it. There is no thesis. All they have is a correlation. There is no argument.
I have debated Fair Isaac and Allstate and all these people. No one can tell me why, if I am laid off because of the bad economy and it takes me 9 months to get my job back and I fall behind on a couple of bills because of that, why I am a worse driver next year or a worse homeowner. It just is not true.
And they say, ''Well, we have a correlation.'' Well, California Department of Motor Vehicles found a correlation between hair color and driving record.
Mr. BACHUS. I guess what I am saying, are you saying that insurance companies, if they get a credit score from a person and he happens to be a minority and he has a good credit score, that they would use, that they would?
Mr. HUNTER. They get a better break on the basis of a credit score
Mr. BACHUS. But it is not because of the color of their skin?
Mr. HUNTER. Yeah, but minorities are way more adversely impacted, according to the studies. Plus CFA's very careful analysis of credit scoring shows that it is a horrible situation of error. The credit scores are just dead wrong.
We looked at 500,000 credit scores. And we found that around just the prime, sub-prime lending number of 620, 20 percent of America was misclassified. I mean, there are just so many errors. It is just a very bad system.
Mr. BACHUS. You are aware, you know we passed legislation overwhelming which ought to help address that and let people repair theirin fact, I think you all supported that.
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HUNTER. We did. And we appreciate that.
Chairman BAKER. Thank you, Mr. Bachus.
Mr. HUNTER. But I do want to comment though, I agree with the NAIC on the personal lines question. The NAIC's testimony today states this: ''Based on many years of effort, we do not believe a single national rating or product regulation model for personal property casualty lines is appropriate or feasible, whether imposed by the States or the federal government.'' And I agree with that.
Chairman BAKER. Okay.
Mr. FRANK. I have one important question that I had not intended to ask. But I cannot leave here still wondering. Which hair color are the bad drivers?
Mr. HUNTER. Gray.
No, actually darker is worse. And it may be correlated
Mr. FRANK. That is a pro-blond statement then.
Mr. HUNTER. Yeah, pro-blond.
Mr. FRANK. That would be welcome, the anti-stereotype thing.
I notedand I apologize for not being able to be here earlier, but I did read through the testimonya clear statement of disappointment with, almost exasperation with the States' record herethat they have taken too long. There was a reference to difficult states.
And apparently the general sense here is that the insurance industry lobbied very successfully in the 1940s to have this industry be a state regulated industry and now is telling us, from the representatives here and others I have heard from, that they are unhappy with the States, that the States are not doing a very good job.
Page 106 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Is it incompetence? Are they not trying? Why have the States so disappointed with this? Why the need for a fairly drastic change in the federal-state relationship?
Mr. AHART. Yeah, congressman, I think first of all, they are still doing a very good job for the most part of it. The problem is, with changes in our societywith new technology, the modernization and globalization.
People are moving. It is easier for people to operate in more than one state. And therefore, it brings into play the need for uniformity, rather than just dealing with
Mr. FRANK. It is solely because people operate in more than one state?
Mr. AHART. What is that? I am sorry.
Mr. FRANK. This is solely a problem of multistate operations.
Mr. AHART. I think it is a problem of uniformity.
Mr. FRANK. Well, no. But uniformity is a response. That is not the problem.
I have to tell you, with regard to uniformity, do not be surprised at a lack of uniformity from what were intended to be 50 separate decision making entities. I mean, indeed, uniformity is at one end of the pole. Federalism is at the other.
And I have to say, as I have been listening to this committee's work more closely in the last year since my job changed, about all aspects of it than before, I am struck by this pattern that we hear. And this may be a fundamental change in America, with regard to even the business community.
We hear it with regard to the Office of Comptroller of the Currency needing to reemphasize his preemptive powers. We had it last year with the emphasis on preemption. Some people wanted to go even further in credit scoring.
Page 107 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now the insurance industry really is asking us to begin the process of reversing a decision it initiated 60 years ago with regard to where the focus is. I mean, have we reached a point where, because of technology and other factors, the States are not to be given much economic power?
You know, after the Supreme Court's redistricting decision, Everett Dirksen saidinaccurately at the time''pretty soon the only people who will care about States is Rand McNally.''
I mean, it does sound to me like, from the economic standpoint, that is what we are talking aboutno uniformity and they are difficult and they are not making good decisions. So maybe we ought to look. Because we do not want to just do it piecemeal.
Is this in fact part of a general view that the States have become increasingly irrelevant economic decisionmakers?
Mr. COUNSELMAN. Congressman, if I may?
There is a fundamental change in our businessespecially in the last 10 years, but it has been going on for 20 yearsand that is what Mr. Ahart was talking about. Our businesses that we insure, our customers, they are operating throughout the country or in different parts of the country.
And it used to be that they operated primarily in one location, except for a handful of Fortune 500 companies. But now everybody, even the small guy, is operating
Mr. FRANK. Okay, well that helps me. So if it is that thing, but that would deal with most business, but would not affect residential property though and even, to a great extent, to private automobiles.
I mean, if it is a question about sort of accommodating the multistate operations, that is one thing. But there are clearly a lot of things in the property and casualty business in particular and also in life insurance. I mean, people are who they are. And I do not understand what globally has changed about a certain individual who bought life insurance.
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Yes, sir?
Mr. DICKSON. Thank you, congressman. I think there are several themes that you have heard today. There is a desire for efficiency.
Mr. FRANK. No, I am not asking. I understand what you want. But I am trying to get at why you want it.
Mr. DICKSON. Well, I think in part there is a recognition on the part of the industry, a significant frustration on the part of the industry, that in a number of states, there has been a failure to recognize
Mr. FRANK. No, I understand that. Excuse me. You have said that. I understand that. I have heard that.
I am asking: why do you think the States have done the things that frustrate you? I am trying to understand.
Is it bad governance on the part of the States? Are they not able to do this? Is this too hard for them? Or have they been having changes?
You need not restate the problem. I understand what you think the problem is. But you cannot solve a problem unless you understand why it is there.
Mr. DICKSON. Well, they are not using market-oriented regulation or competitive factors.
Mr. FRANK. Why not?
Mr. DICKSON. Perhaps because there are other less objective considerations that the political system dictates.
Mr. FRANK. Okay. See that, I think, weakens your case. In other words, you do not like the political outcomes in the States. Frankly, I do not always either.
You know, I was not dancing in the streets yesterday with my own state. I would have voted against that amendment.
Page 109 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But that is what federalism is. And you cannot cherry pick it. And I appreciate your honesty in this. You do not like the political decisions in the States.
But then let's be honest about that and say: what do we do about that? You cannot give people the right to make only correct decisions. And if states, you say they are not using good political judgment, I think we ought to be very careful before we decide that we are the federal appeals court for bad political judgment at the State level.
Mr. HUNTER. Yeah, I was just going to say when I was first briefed on the first optional federal charter bill by the industry proponents, I asked the question: how come, for the last 25 years, when the consumer groups have been yelling that state regulation is inefficient and ineffective, you guys did nothing to help us? And their answer was: Gramm-Leach-Bliley has changed everything.
We did not care when it was inefficient before. We controlled it. We liked it.
But now, it is different because now we are competing more directly with the banks. And I think that was a very honest answer.
And the insurance industry historically has been for federal regulation at times and for state regulation at times. Wherever the laissez faire was the laziest, they were for that. They lost lawsuits back in the Supreme Court trying
Mr. FRANK. By the way, I think it is entirely legitimate to say, ''Look, sometimes we want to go federal and sometimes we want to go state, depending on the outcome.'' That is what most peoplemost people here prefer that issues be decided at that level of government where they are likeliest to agree with the outcome.
But then we should all stop pretending that we are either for states' rights or not for states' rights. And there is no moral imperative in that it be done one way or the other.
Page 110 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Two other quick questions because I noticed, I very much agreed with the Statement of Ms. Ochenkowski about this. And I think there is a real hole in this that has to be filled.
You support the concept of a federal coordinator, but believe that for national uniformity to work, this individual should have some authority. This will be a sensitive area, yet one that must be addressed.
I mean that, it seems to me, is sort of the sine quo non. It does not make sense to take some power away from the States and create this move and have nobody to run it.
And until and unless we can come up with that, I think we have a very serious problem here because, in fact, if it does not work in the State by state thing, giving it more power and less ability to make a decision could make things worse, rather than better.
Let me just throw on one other thing and I would be interested in comments on this mechanism; and that is, I have to say, I mentioned Massachusetts. I have not been in the Massachusetts Legislature for a long time and I do not plan to go back, but
tell me again that they cannot do the way they do rate regulation. I find that very hard to justify, for my state or any other.
And we are not here talking obviously about globalization. We are not talking about multistate operations when we talk about automobile insurance rate setting. We are talking about a political judgment that people disagree with.
And I may or may not disagree with it. But I do not understand, in our system, how we just cancel it out.
So I think that one, just saying to the States, ''You are wrong, stupid. And we know better. And you cannot do that anymore,'' is a very hard sell in our system.
But now let me get back, people, in closing, I would be interested: where are we on the question of a mechanism? And do you agree that we have to have a less ambiguous mechanism if we are going to expect this thing to function?
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Anybody?
Mr. COUNSELMAN. I will respond to that. I think we need to say what needs to happen.
Mr. FRANK. Who is we?
Mr. COUNSELMAN. I think Congress
Mr. FRANK. Okay.
Mr. COUNSELMAN.I think needs to say what needs to be done because the commissioner of Massachusetts or the commissioner of New Jersey, he does not have to be concerned about what is going on elsewhere in the country. He is concerned about what is going on in
Mr. FRANK. But how do we enforce that? I understand that. But my problem is I do notI mean, the goal setting, I tend to agree with mending the goals, not overriding the regulation. But the enforcement mechanism, I am afraid without an enforcement mechanism, we may just be adding to the confusion.
Mr. COUNSELMAN. Well, perhaps our mechanism needs to have something that we would do, some action that the federal administrator would be able to take if, in fact, the standards were not met by a given date.
Mr. FRANK. Yes, I would advise you to work on that because I think that, again, is what you need.
Anybody else? Yes, sir?
Mr. SINGER. Well, congressman, a simple solution would just be a preemption of rate setting. I mean, there is a reason that
Mr. FRANK. Only that and nothing else? None of the other
Mr. SINGER. No, but that would be a solution to the Massachusetts and New Jersey problem. And I think the politicians and the administrators in Massachusetts and New Jersey do a very, very good job on most things they do.
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FRANK. But you just disagree with their value decision? And you want us to cancel it.
Mr. SINGER. What I think is they have forced themselves into a position where there is so much political risk in letting the steam out of the rate system that they cannot do that.
Mr. FRANK. By political risk, you mean public reaction?
Mr. SINGER. Public reaction
Mr. FRANK. So it is not the politicians we should overrule, it is the public.
Mr. SINGER. I think in fact the public would not be hurt. I think ultimately
Mr. FRANK. Do you think the politicians do not understand what the voters would do? I mean, you said the politicians will not do it because they are afraid of voter reaction.
I have to tell you, one thing about Massachusetts politicians, please do not suggest that they misunderstand voter reaction. They tend to be very good at that.
Mr. SINGER. Yes.
Mr. FRANK. I do not think you understand. But is that not your problem? I do not want to play games with you. What you are basically saying is there is a decision made by the electoral forces in Massachusetts with which you disagree. And Congress ought to cancel it.
And that is a hard sell for me.
Mr. SINGER. I think the political mechanism in Massachusetts, unfortunately, has itself into a very difficult problem.
Mr. FRANK. But you realize that political mechanism is called democracy?
Page 113 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SINGER. Yes, I understand that. I understand that. But I also understand that some economic decisions sometimes are made at different levels of government. And I think simply it is not working now.
We are strangling an economic market to the disadvantage of consumers in Massachusetts.
Mr. FRANK. And the consumers are too dumb to understand to understand that?
Mr. SINGER. The consumers have no choice. There is only one
Mr. FRANK. No, they have a choice politically. They have a choice.
What you said is the consumer reaction to doing away with regulation intimidates the politicians into keeping it, so the consumers are forcing the politicians to do something which is bad for the consumers. Consumers are the voters, after all.
Mr. SINGER. And the consumers and the voters probably will change it at some point.
Mr. FRANK. I am afraid you are going to have to wait for them. I am not going to short circuit the democratic process with regard to my state or any other in that regard.
Mr. SINGER. I understand.
Mr. FRANK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman BAKER. The gentleman yields back his time.
I do have follow-ups, which I will provide in writing to each of you at a subsequent time, as I am sure other members may as well. I just want to thank each of you for your participation. This has been a helpful step in our work. And we look forward to our continued conversation.
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our meeting is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 2:05 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]