NH Commissioner Sees Softening Market Conditions

May 27, 2003

New Hampshire Insurance Department Commissioner Paula Rogers, the keynote speaker at the Professional Insurance Agents of New Hampshire Inc.’s annual conference held at the Marriott Courtyard and Grappone Conference Center, Concord, N.H. on Wednesday, May 21, told more than 100 insurance professionals that, according to consumer input, market conditions seem to be softening.

The commissioner noted that, beginning in 2001, the department had noticed a growing influx of consumer complaints about market conditions and began plans to develop a market assistance program (MAP) to address the problem. “However,” she reported, “they (the complaints) seem to be abating.” She indicated her department is taking a “do-no-harm” approach, and plans to delay the implementation of MAP. “Nonetheless, it is ready if we need it,” she told the audience.

Commissioner Rogers attributed the reduction of complaints to positive trends in the market and producers’ response to the hard market. She commended agents for stepping up in difficult times, adding that “Agents are much more attentive to their books of business.”

She also discussed legislative issues the department plans to address in the upcoming year, including a modernization of rating laws to coincide with federal regulations. “Upon examination of our rate approval process, we need to lighten up the ‘front end’ while improving our consumer education and assistance program,” she explained, citing a new, improved query system, which would allow the department to examine issues by line of insurance and how consumer queries are resolved.

The department will also be improving its brochures and revising consumer pamphlets and looking for industry input in developing them. “Particularly our auto and homeowners pamphlets,” the commissioner said. “We’d like to explain to policyholders what they can do to better position themselves as consumers.”

Plans are also in the works to better position the department to track rate filings and monitor the market. “We know when a competitive market exists and when one doesn’t, so that when the property and casualty rating law goes into effect Jan. 1, we can fall back on previous regulations, if appropriate.”

Rogers commended New Hampshire Insurance Department Assistant Commissioner Roger Sevigny for his efforts to reach out to licensees and cited progress with producer/department relationships.

She also discussed the extensive work the department has undertaken in reaction to the health insurance industry’s concern over anti-rebating laws and their obstruction of “value-added” services. The commissioner cited cooperation with Sen. Flanders, who supported a bill (SB 42) whereby the department could contribute a provision that stipulates rebating would not inhere if a broker in the community provides a value to the service related to the insurance contracted. “This is a very progressive concept,” she noted.

The commissioner also commended the Senate for seeking department input on a bill (SB 110), sponsored by Sen. Prescot, which will reprice the small group health insurance marketplace. “There initially will be winners and losers as a result of this bill,” she acknowledged. “But ultimately the marketplace will be more vibrant and allow healthier risks back into the market as a result.”

She emphasized the urgency in addressing the regulatory obstacles to easing the market, indicating that “Until market rules issues are addressed, we are going to have problems dealing with anything else.”

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