Expert Roundtable: Insurance

Written by City & State on . Posted in Banking/Insurance.

James Seward
Chair, New York State Senate Insurance Committee

Q: What is your top priority this year as chair of the Insurance Committee?
JS: Auto insurance fraud is a half a billion dollar a year criminal enterprise in New York. This pervasive abuse of the insurance system is a burden on insurers, a hit on the wallet for consumers, and has even cost lives. The Senate has passed multiple measures that would target criminals and reform the system. The Assembly and governor must join the fight.

James Seward
Chair, New York State
Senate Insurance

Q: You have introduced legislation that would allow the formation of excess line insurance companies in the state. What would these companies do, and why is that important?
JS: Under current law, excess line admitted carriers cannot write coverage on the New York portion of a multistate surplus line policy. Subsequently these companies are forced to take their business out of state. Several states have changed their laws to accommodate such instances, and my legislation would add New York to that list. The measure would help us maintain a competitive edge, spurring job growth while leading to efficiencies for insurers and cost reductions for policyholders.

Q: You also have a bill dealing with unclaimed life insurance benefits. What would this legislation do?
JS: Legislation that has now been enacted requires life insurance companies to do regular matching of their in-force and lapsed life insurance policies against the Social Security Administration Death Master File to identify potentially missing beneficiaries. This is added peace of mind for anyone who purchases life insurance. While life insurers on the whole are diligent in paying out benefits, this legislation provides an enhanced guarantee that the wishes of the policyholder will be fully respected and loved ones will be taken care of when they need help the most.

Q: Is your committee looking at the implementation of federal healthcare reform, which has a 2014 deadline for many provisions to go into effect?
JS: The recently adopted state budget included several provisions necessary to comply with the Affordable Care Act. Past that, I am directing my attention to the establishment of a health insurance exchange. While the governor has taken initial steps to create the exchange, legislative oversight will be needed prior to full implementation. There are questions and concerns surrounding the expense of an exchange. Affordability for businesses and individuals is key, in my mind. Protection for brokers and chambers of commerce currently offering coverage is also vital so they are able to continue providing service to clients.

Kevin Cahill
Chair, New York State Assembly Insurance Committee

Q: What is your top priority this year as chair of the Insurance Committee?
KC: One of the first issues I undertook was examining insurance claims practices in the aftermath of [Superstorm] Sandy. I held a hearing and roundtables in the regions hit hardest by the storm. As a result, we have a better picture of the problems that arose as we work toward solutions needed to address them. In the coming months the committee will focus on educating consumers on types of coverage included in their policies and making these policies easier to understand.

Kevin Cahill
Chair, New York State
Assembly Insurance

Q: What stood out?
KC: A big concern was consumer confusion over flood coverage, provided through the National Flood Insurance Program. I will be lobbying the NFIP and our senators and representatives on suggested changes to the program to ensure that policyholders are adequately covered in the event of a future disaster.

Q: How has your approach differed from that of your predecessor as chair of the Insurance Committee, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle?
KC: Majority Leader Morelle is highly praised for his tenure as chair of the committee. His predecessor, Pete Grannis, came at the issues from a slightly different perspective, but like Joe was admired for the intelligence, grit and attention to detail he brought to the job. They set the bar very high. As a newcomer to insurance policy, my focus has been on gaining a full understanding of all issues in play and getting a handle on the needs of consumers and insurers alike.

Q: Are there any bipartisan bills you are working on together with Sen. James Seward, your counterpart in the state Senate?
KC: Jim Seward is one of the most respected legislative authorities on insurance matters in this country. We consult regularly and work together to advance sound legislation that recognizes the important role insurance plays in every facet of New York life. A bill we are currently collaborating on would allow life insurers to credit additional amounts on equity-indexed universal life insurance policies every three years, rather than annually. This will help stabilize and expand investment gain opportunities for policyholders.

Q: Is your committee looking at the implementation of the landmark federal healthcare reform, which has a 2014 deadline for many provisions to go into effect in the state and around the country?
KC: Seamlessness, continuity, comparability and transparency are the principles I am working toward when it comes to the ACA. I have confidence that the state agencies taking the lead are doing a good job. Now it is up to us to ensure the public knows everything they need to comply.

Robert Doar
Commissioner, New York City Human Resources Administration

Q: What impact will federal healthcare reform have here?
RD: New York City is a national leader in providing health insurance coverage. Virtually all children—over 95 percent—have health insurance coverage here, the best rate of any big city in America. The Human Resources Administration provides over 3 million New Yorkers with public health insurance through Medicaid.

Robert Doar
Commissioner, New York
City Human Resources

Over many years the federal and state governments have simplified the Medicaid rules to make it easier to get and to cover more people. Federal healthcare reform will take this a step further. In New York City this will mean that people with higher incomes than before will be eligible, either through Medicaid or by using tax credits to purchase private health insurance. They will also need to apply through a new insurance exchange operated by the state, not through HRA. New York State’s move to a new system and set of rules is a big undertaking. We at HRA are working with the state to help them ensure that New Yorkers don’t lose coverage during the transition and to prevent fraud, waste and abuse in the new system. We also are discussing ways to ensure that people who are eligible for the new coverage learn about their options and know how to get coverage. It is important to recognize that many uninsured New Yorkers are undocumented immigrants who will not be eligible for insurance through the new exchange—so a significant population of uninsured will not gain coverage under healthcare reform.

Q: In what ways is New York City ahead of the curve in covering the uninsured?
RD: We have created innovative systems that allow HRA to receive and process Medicaid applications and renewals more efficiently. We educate New Yorkers about their health insurance options and connect them to coverage. We have also created tools that allow New Yorkers to look for and make decisions about their health insurance coverage—like NYC Health Insurance Link, our online resource for finding public and private health insurance. They can use our ACCESS NYC to screen themselves for potential eligibility, and to renew their existing public health insurance coverage online, without having to come into an office.

Q: Is the city prepared to meet increased demand under federal healthcare reform?
RD: Most of the expected increased demand will have to be addressed by New York State, not the city. The responsibility for the new exchange is theirs, and they are also taking over enrollment responsibility for many Medicaid beneficiaries. At this point, I don’t think the state is quite ready but they are getting closer.

Q: Anthony Weiner’s policy book calls for a city-run single-payer healthcare program.
RD: President Obama and Congress chose a different approach than the one you describe. We need to see how that works before we try another approach.


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