The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”) applauds The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) for passing a resolution supporting the preservation of the McCarran-Ferguson Act’s limited anti-trust exemption and opposing congressional proposals to revise the decades-old law.
The resolution was adopted by NCSL’s Communications, Financial Services, and Interstate Commerce Committee during the organization’s 2007 Legislative Summit. The annual meeting – which was attended by approximately 1700 bipartisan lawmakers from all 50 states -- took place this week in Boston.
“The Big ‘I’ and its 300,000 members nationwide commend America’s state legislators on this resolution and we agree that the McCarran-Ferguson Act is crucial for consumer choice and comparison shopping, smaller and regional insurers, competition, and more ,” says Big “I” CEO Robert A. Rusbuldt. “We believe the qualified application of federal antitrust law to this sector has served both the market and consumers well. Where marketplace anomalies exist, it is not due to the McCarran Act. In fact, without the Act, the situation would likely be exacerbated for consumers.”
In addition to describing NCSL’s support for the state regulatory system and the current McCarran-Ferguson framework, the resolution expresses the legislators’ opposition to the Insurance Industry Competition Act (S.618 and H.R. 1081). The statement argues that such federal proposals would not increase the availability or lower the cost of insurance and would instead undermine efforts to make the industry more competitive. The resolution also recognizes the pro-consumer aspects of the McCarran-Ferguson Act’s limited antitrust provisions, which promote competition by permitting the use of standardized insurance forms and the collection and sharing of historical loss data.
Big “I” Sr. Counsel for State Government Affairs Wes Bissett expressed the association’s agreement with NCSL’s assessment. “NCSL is 100% correct in pointing out that the potential loss of standardized forms would ‘make it more difficult for consumers to know what they are purchasing and to compare insurance options,’” says Bissett. “We urge Congress to consider the well-founded concerns of state policymakers before taking any action that could harm insurance consumers and hinder competition, particularly the ability of small and medium sized insurance companies to compete in the marketplace.”
NCSL is the latest state legislator organization to express its concerns with possible changes to the McCarran-Ferguson Act. In April 2007, the National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) weighed in with House and Senate leaders and suggested that revisions to the act would destabilize insurance markets, threaten the ability of small and medium-sized insurers to compete with larger players, produce higher insurance prices and other detrimental consumer effects, and initiate years of costly litigation.
Founded in 1896, IIABA (the Big “I”) is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life, and health—as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com.