N.M. Legislators Adjourn on Quiet Note for Industry, Says NAMIC

February 22, 2006

New Mexico’s 30-day legislative session, which ended last Thursday, was predominantly focused upon budget related legislation, but a few insurance related bills were introduced, according to the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC).

Ninety-eight NAMIC member companies write 34 percent of the homeowners insurance and 30 percent of the automobile insurance in New Mexico.

NAMIC opposed The Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association Act, HB 851, which would have mandated that liability insurance carriers, other than automobile, homeowners and farmowner liability insurance, fund and participate in the creation of a Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association to assist in improving availability and affordability of professional liability insurance for health care providers.

NAMIC also opposed Remedies to Victims of Identity Theft, HB 251, which would have amended current law on civil remedies and criminal penalties for identity theft, and would have created a provision in the law to allow consumers to place a security freeze on their consumer credit reports.

Neither HB 851 nor HB 251 made it out of their respective house committees during this brief legislative session. However, NAMIC and members of the insurance industry expect both bills to be introduced next session and to be adamantly contested by the insurance industry.

According to NAMIC West Region State Affairs Manager Christian John Rataj, NAMIC opposed HB 851 because the bill:

* required certain bodily injury liability carriers to contribute to the funding and operation of an association that is designed to address professional malpractice insurance, not bodily injury insurance;
* adversely impacted market competition in the state;
* could have lead to increased insurance rates for consumers since they would ultimately have been the ones required to pay for this professional liability insurance subsidization;
* would have required insurance carriers to use their policyholder surplus, which is set aside by carriers to ensure that they have the resources to settle claims, to pay the Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association’s annual assessments; and
* failed to afford bodily injury liability insurance carriers with substantive and procedural due process.

“NAMIC and the insurance industry were concerned with the language of HB 251 because the security freeze provision did not allow for an ‘insurance exclusion,’ which is necessary for insurance carriers to provide timely and accurate insurance quotes to applicants,” stated Rataj. “Also, no provision was made that would allow insurance carriers the right to designate an application as incomplete if the consumer activates a security freeze that prevents the carrier from being able to thoroughly evaluate the applicant for insurance coverage.”

NAMIC will work in concert with its member companies and the rest of the insurance industry to oppose HB 851 and HB 251 next legislative session.

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