The New Hampshire Insurance Department has announced that Chris Nicolopoulos was confirmed by the New Hampshire Executive Council as insurance commissioner succeeding John Elias, who resigned in December less than two years after his appointment.
Acadia Insurance, a regional underwriter based in Westbrook, Maine, announced in February that Elias has joined its management team as senior vice president and chief underwriting officer based in the company’s Westbrook office.
Nicolopoulos was nominated by New Hampshire Governor Chris T. Sununu following Elias’ resignation and is slated to serve out the remainder of the term through June 2023.
Previously, Nicolopoulos served as the president and CEO of the New Hampshire Association of Insurance Agents (NHAIA) for five years. He said the most significant insights he gained during his time at NHAIA were as much about the people as the industry itself – insights he said he plans to bring to his role as New Hampshire Insurance Commissioner.
“A strong department depends on a strong sense of team and a genuine belief in the mission,” he told Insurance Journal. “Ensuring that team-first mentality will be a focus of mine; one rooted in strong communications and continued high morale. That’s what we built at NHAIA, and that will be a focus at the insurance department.”
Indeed, he stated in a press release issued by the New Hampshire Insurance Department that he believes the department’s employees are its greatest asset.
“I am excited to begin working with the department’s dedicated staff on behalf of New Hampshire consumers,” he said in the release.
Nicolopoulos said one of his first priorities as insurance commissioner is to ensure that all insurance products are available to New Hampshire residents. This means working toward keeping increases on health insurance premiums in check.
“With only three health carriers offering individual health coverage in the state, we need to work closely with the companies to support affordable premiums,” he said, adding that he sees the stabilization of the individual health insurance market in New Hampshire as an ongoing concern.
Last year, New Hampshire established a Commission on the Status of the Individual and Small Group Health Insurance Markets, as Nicolopoulos said the state is “preparing for further destabilizing events at the federal level that could impact health insurance.”
Additionally, Governor Chris Sununu and the New Hampshire Insurance Department announced in January that the department intends to file a Section 1332 Waiver this spring to promote stability in the state’s individual health insurance market with an expectation that plan year 2021 premiums will be reduced by approximately 15%.
Beyond his focus on the individual health insurance market, Nicolopoulos added that he plans to ensure the insurance department continues to play an important role in the legislative process in New Hampshire, assisting and supporting policymakers as they consider legislation that could have an impact on the industry.
“We are fortunate at the department to have such a wide group of subject matter experts, and we will be sure to make those resources available to legislators as they consider laws that may have an impact on the marketplace,” Nicolopoulos said.
Another significant challenge that Nicolopoulos sees in New Hampshire is the regulation of technology within the insurance industry as the use of data and concerns around cybersecurity continue to grow.
In an effort to place more of a focus on data security, New Hampshire’s Insurance Data Security Law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The law requires carriers to report cybersecurity events to the insurance department within three business days of determining an event occurred. It also includes requirements for notifying consumers about the breach.
New Hampshire is one of several states, including Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio and South Carolina, that has passed an insurance data security law following the National Association of Insurance Commissioner’s (NAIC) Insurance Data Security Model Law, Alston & Bird reported in its data privacy and cybersecurity blog in August.
Nicolopoulos said New Hampshire is also participating in two NAIC working groups related to the regulation of predictive modeling – the Big Data Working Group and the Artificial Intelligence Working Group.
“We plan to continue participating in these work groups and collaborating with other states to find solutions to regulating the changing insurance technology industry,” he said.
While continuing to seek ways to efficiently regulate insurance technology, Nicolopoulos added that the New Hampshire Insurance Department has adapted in recent years to place more of a focus on efficiency and regulatory value through its own use of data and technology.
“The newly created Data Analytics Division uses data to help the department identify and concentrate our efforts on the greatest harms to consumers,” he said.
Outside of any challenges, Nicolopoulos said he sees a vibrant insurance marketplace in New Hampshire.
“As the industry continues to evolve, I believe the department is well-suited to continue to regulate the industry and to protect the insurance consumers,” he said.
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