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NCOIL raps NAIC on closed meetings

NCOIL raps NAIC on closed meetings

TROY, N.Y.—Leaders of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators have criticized the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners for failing to maintain a rigorous approach to adopting accreditation standards and for failing to abide by states' "open meetings" laws.

In addition, 13 representatives of various consumer groups--all but one of whom belong to the NAIC's consumer liaison committee-- echoed NCOIL's recommendation for more open meetings late last week. "Too often, committees or working groups operate in executive session without reasonable justification or necessity," they said in a May 10 letter to NAIC members.

NAIC leaders have rejected NCOIL's claims, setting the stage for a public airing of those issues during the NAIC's June 1-4 meeting in San Francisco and NCOIL's July 19-22 meeting in Seattle.

In the most recent exchange, NCOIL President Alan Sanborn, a state senator from Michigan, in a statement expressed concerns over what he describes as "an unraveling" of the NAIC's approval process for additions to its accreditation program.

The NAIC's accreditation program sets minimum financial regulation standards for state insurance departments, and in many cases, a state's legislature must adopt the standards for that state to become accredited. All U.S. insurance departments, except New York, are accredited.

Among the specific concerns of Sen. Sanborn, R-Macomb County, are NAIC procedures that he said reduce the amount of time state legislatures have to consider proposed changes to accreditation standards, according to his March 8 letter to Rhode Island Superintendent Joseph Torti, chair of the NAIC's Financial Regulation Standards and Accreditation Committee. In addition, the NAIC has weakened original language regarding the need to estimate the cost for compliance, Mr. Sanborn wrote.

NCOIL's concerns are with the NAIC's process for revising accreditation standards, said Susan F. Nolan, executive director of Troy, N.Y.-based NCOIL. "Is the process that the NAIC is using to add new models or changes to models a meaningful process?"

NAIC leaders, however, maintain that the process is "extensive and deliberative," wrote NAIC President Walter Bell, the Alabama insurance commissioner, and Catherine J. Weatherford, the NAIC's executive vp and CEO, in an April 2 letter.

"From start to finish, the entire process to consider amendments and additions to accreditation standards spans nearly five years," they wrote. In addition, "only those models that are critical to ensuring that a state insurance department has sufficient regulatory authority to monitor the financial solvency of its domestic industry become accreditation standards," they wrote. Since 1999, 33 new models have been developed and 56 more have been revised; the committee considered 22 and adopted four for accreditation purposes, they said.

Meanwhile, NCOIL Vp Brian Patrick Kennedy, a Rhode Island state representative, is the latest to criticize the NAIC for a policy that permits closed sessions for considering "strategic planning issues relating to legislative matters," NCOIL said in statement last week following a March 20 letter from Rep. Kennedy, D-Hopkinton/Westerly.

NAIC President Bell responded in a press release last week that while the NAIC has "a liberal open meetings policy," it asserts its right to conduct relatively few meetings in private. The NAIC is a nonprofit corporation with voluntary membership and "is not a state governmental entity," Mr. Bell wrote in an April 9 letter to Mr. Kennedy.

Also, he said several attorneys general have concluded open meeting laws did not apply to members of a multistate representatives group.