Insurance commissioner praises agents and state-based regulation at PIACT’s Annual Convention
March 17, 2014
MASHANTUCKET, Conn.–Insurance Commissioner Thomas B. Leonardi solicited input from PIACT members to raise consumer awareness of their individual coverage and the Connecticut Insurance Department’s presence during his keynote address to the Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut Inc.’s Annual Convention, March 14 at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Conn. He recalled early meetings with PIACT and past PIACT Conventions, which he and his staff have attended since his appointment in 2011 by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. While the Commissioner cited the department’s important role in consumer protection, he made a point to note that the CID manages its job with a “balanced approach.”
“We don’t see the insurance industry as enemies or something to be vilified,” he said, rather an economic engine that has a rich history in the state of Connecticut. Leonardi cited the state has the largest percentage of insurance jobs, and that insurance represents 10 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, as well as the importance of agents to the economy and individual insureds.
Among the CID’s achievements, Leonardi reported that the department has recovered more than $4 million for consumers annually and an increased profile for both the regulatory authority of the CID. Despite these consumer benefits, he said, a recent study conducted by the department showed that 25 percent of the state’s population was unaware the CID exists. In an effort to raise awareness, he said, the department is running 30-second Public Service Ads, and has expanded its presence on Facebook and YouTube. The entire campaign was paid for by the Department’s Consumer Education Fund, which is funded by industry fines and not taxpayer dollars.
Leonardi noted that, since he became commissioner, the state has experienced extreme conditions, including the worst October storm in history as well as Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy. Despite these events, the Commissioner said his department has received relatively few complaints He congratulated agents, whom he said were integral in this success: “When your customers need help, you are there.” Leonardi also noted that the success of the local, vs. federally managed program demonstrates that state regulation works better.
Leonardi reported on his recent testimony to Congress on the Federal Insurance Office’s Annual Report on the Insurance Industry, where he staunchly defended state-based regulation over federal oversight of the insurance industry. He reiterated that the financial meltdown of 2008 was not a result of state regulation. Rather, the credit default swaps which were the keystone of the crisis were, in fact, overseen by a (now defunct) federal program.
He also reported on his November 20 meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office on the Affordable Care Act and the President’s suggestion to allow one-year extension of non-ACA compliant plans. The President, he said, recognized that the State of Connecticut was well prepared and a model for successfully implementing the program. Because Connecticut had done the groundwork on the ACA much sooner than many states it did now experience many of the problems associated with the federal rollout, he said. Leonardi said that the one-year extension may have been necessary for other states, but was not an appropriate solution for Connecticut. Policyholders would have seen significant rates increases on plans that offered less comprehensive coverage. “For these reasons, we decided not to permit the extension, rather to stay the course,” he said of the state’s decision in November
Leonardi solicited ideas from the agent community on how to increase awareness of the CID’s work to help consumers. “The insurance consumer is your customer,” he appealed to the agents in the room. “You know them best.” And, he encouraged agents to continue their work with PIACT to affect policy in the state. “The power of agents is enormous. Be active.”
A video of the commissioner’s speech will be posted on the PIACT website at www.pia.org/CT.
The PIACT Annual Convention is the largest industry gathering of insurance industry professionals in the state, hosting more than 400 agents, company representatives, exhibitors and other insurance industry professionals. Offering attendees the opportunity to participate in educational seminars; network and view the latest insurance products and services available during the expanded trade show, featuring more than 70 exhibitors. In addition to the numerous education sessions, the association presented its 2014 Distinction of Professionalism Awards, honoring the industry’s most dedicated professionals.
PIACT is a trade association representing professional, independent insurance agencies, brokerages and their employees throughout their respective states.