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Frank: Federal regulation must protect consumers


WASHINGTON--Any federal system to regulate insurers must contain significant consumer protections to be acceptable to the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

In fact, the chairman--Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.--said Wednesday he would support a federal role in insurance regulation "as long as they hit a pretty high level" of what's already being done by the states in terms of consumer protection.

"That's the context" in which the issue of possible federal regulation will be debated, said Rep. Frank during the keynote address to the annual Insurance Reform Summit in Washington held by the Networks Financial Institute at Indiana State University.

Current law gives states the primary responsibility of regulating insurance, but groups including the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc., the American Insurance Assn. and the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers have called for creation of an optional federal charter for insurers that desire it. Such a change would increase efficiency and lower transaction costs, OFC proponents hold.

On another matter of interest to risk managers, Rep. Frank said the House would vote next month on extending the federal terrorism insurance backstop.

The extended program would cover group life insurance, which is currently not covered by the program. It would also provide coverage for domestic- and foreign-initiated acts of terrorism, he said. The current backstop, which is slated to expire Dec. 31, does not cover catastrophic terrorist acts initiated by domestic terrorists.