Monday, March 5, 2012


The NAIC's Identity Crisis

So just who is the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)? Apparently the answer depends on particular circumstances. This has actually been the case for some time,
but more people seem to be paying attention now because of the organization’s “mission creep” at both the state and federal level.

Case in point is a February 28, 2012 letter from Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) to NAIC president Kevin McCarty and CEO Therese Vaughan requesting clarification of exactly how this collection of insurance regulators is defining themselves.

Rep. Royce’s interest was sparked by recent press reports that the NAIC is re-branding itself
as a “standard –setting” organization rather than a private non-profit organization, as it has previously cited its 501 ( c) (3) status to distance itself from exercising any regulatory authority, thereby enabling the NAIC to sidestep open meeting and Sunshine law requirements.

While there have been grumblings about NAIC’s organizational structure and status for some time, it is now getting more attention largely because of the establishment of the Federal Insurance Office and health care reform implementation requirements, which have more
clearly exposed the NAIC’s activist nature.

So let’s explore the NAIC’s identify crisis a bit.

It is on record stating that “when individual insurance commissioners gather as members
gather as members of the NAIC, they are not considered a governmental or public body, but rather are a private group. As an organization, the NAIC does not have any regulatory
authority.”

Well, I guess the validity of this statement depends on how you define the term authority.
While technically true that the NAIC cannot mandate state compliance with any
“standards” it develops, such authority is effectively exercised indirectly through the organization’s accreditation program.

Another interesting observation is that 501 ( c ) (3) organizations are generally restricted
from engaging in political or lobbying activities. But apparently the NAIC does not feel
confined by the U.S. tax code as it regularly dispatches lobbyists to the U.S. Capitol to influence members of Congress on insurance-related legislation.

They certainly have been engaged in an ongoing effort to kill or neuter legislation designed
to modernize the Liability Risk Retention Act. Their most recent objections include
giving the Federal Insurance Office any oversight responsibility with regard to RRG regulation and the establishment of federal corporate governance standard for RRGs.

In related news, the NAIC represented itself as a “standard setter” on insurance issues in a
recent friend of the course brief to the Maine Supreme Court involving premiums charged for health insurance. As part of its brief, the NAIC said it had the right to participate because ‘through the NAIC, state insurance regulators establish standards and best practices, conduct peer review and coordinate their regulatory oversight.”

Rep. Royce concludes his letter by asking NAIC officials to respond to three specific questions:

1. What is NAIC’s status? Is it a trade association? Is it a formal part of “the national system
of state-based insurance regulation in the U.S..”? If so, why did it (a) testify to Congress,
when asked specifically about its status, that it does not “hold ourselves out as some kind of …national regulatory system”; and (b) insist to NCOIL that is not considered a public body” and “does not have any regulatory authority”?

2. Does NAIC agree that as a self-described “private group,” it may not “regulate in the field
of interstate commerce”?

3. As a 501( c ) ( 3) non-profit corporation, does the NAIC not file a Form 990, a routine financial statement for non-profits, with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)? If the NAIC has been formally exempted by the IRS from filing this information, please provide written documentation of this exemption, and explain why the NAIC feels it necessary to keep this disclosure from public scrutiny.

We look forward to seeing the NAIC’s response and will report on it accordingly. In the
meantime, this blog can report that there is no record of the NAIC filing 990 reports.

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