Insurance Journal Series ‘The Commissioners’ Presents Interviews with 15 State Regulators

Reinsurance collateral, natural disaster plans, brokerage compensation disclosure, credit scoring, competition for insurance jobs—state insurance regulators across the country deal with these and many other issues.

Insurance Journal reveals how they are handling the issues in a series of exclusive video interviews in a new broadcast special report titled “The Commissioners” that was released on its Web site ( today.

In “The Commissioners,” 15 state regulators share their thoughts on specific issues and on the role they play in the market. In future months, Insurance Journal plans to interview additional regulators in what will be a continuing series.

“The Commissioners” broadcast presents a useful portrait of state regulation today, according to Insurance Journal editor Andrew Simpson, who conducted the 15 interviews.

“Many of the issues they face cross state lines but state regulators vary in their approaches, backgrounds and personalities, sometimes in surprising ways,” Simpson says.

The state regulators interviewed in “The Commissioners” are Howard Mills (New York), Christina Urias (Arizona), Jim Atterholt (Indiana), James T. Donelon (Louisiana), Kim Holland (Oklahoma), Linda Watters (Michigan), Mike Kreidler (Michigan), Roger Sevigny (New Hampshire), Steven M. Goldman (New Jersey), R. Steven Orr (Maryland), Susan Voss (Iowa), Glenn Jennings (Kentucky), Joel Ario (Oregon), J.P. Schmidt (Hawaii) and Julie Benafield Bowman (Arkansas).

In one of the interviews, New York Superintendent Howard Mills shares his thinking on changes to reinsurance collateralization rules now under consideration.

“My bottom line …[is] what will be … impact for the consumers? In other words, if the collateralization rule is dropped, will there be a cost savings passed on to the consumers of reinsurance, and ultimately the primary insurance consumers?”

In her interview, Arizona’s Christina Urias discusses her concern that as wildfires rage, far too many homeowners have insufficient coverage, and what she’s trying to do about it.

“We’ve initiated some reforms, some best practices, if you will, in terms of getting the companies to re-contact their policyholders and their insureds to make sure that they have the appropriate amount of coverage,” Urias says of a new coverage audit initiative.

Michigan’s outspoken Linda Watters warns insurers that she will ban the use of credit scoring in all personal lines insurance if she wins the court battle she is now engaged in with insurers over the issue. She also details a new initiative for religious-based purchasing groups for auto and homeowners insurance.

Louisiana’s Jim Donelon is asked whether his agency has time for anything besides hurricane recovery. “Oh, sure. We have a number of issues like every other state has. If you asked me my priority it would be the uninsured and underinsured as to health insurance population in our state where 20 percent of our states’ 4 million plus folks are uninsured actually for a total of 800, 000,” Donelon offers.

Washington’s Michael Kreider is one of a number of regulators who looked into alleged problems with brokerage compensation and kickbacks, only to come up empty-handed.

“We did a comprehensive examination just to be sure. It came back and, in fact, showed that we didn’t have any indications of a degree of problem that had been manifested particularly in the state of New York and in other places around the country… No smoking guns were identified there,” Kreidler reports.

Iowa may not be in the hurricane belt but that doesn’t mean it has a closed mind on a national disaster plan.

“I think that when we look within our own state and the issues that we have, wind and hail is a huge problem. We get tornadoes, we just had one early this spring. I think they would be sensitive to looking at something the whole nation can look at because whether we want to admit it or not, whenever there is a natural catastrophe, somehow the citizens, through government, are going to have to pay something to assist consumers…,” said Susan Voss, Iowa’s regulator.

Indiana’s Jim Atterholt takes note of New Hampshire’s recent move lowering its premium tax to lure insurance jobs and relays how his state might respond.

Several regulators, including New Jersey’s Steven Goldman and Maryland’s Steven Orr, relative newcomers to their posts, talk about the transition from the private to public sectors.

“This is my first time in the public sector. I’ve been in the private sector for over 25 years. I’m finding this very interesting. On the positive side, I love the people that I work with. We have an incredibly skilled and dedicated staff. On the negative side, I’m having to get used to politics, which is not my trump card,” said Orr.

The 15 interviews of “The Commissioners” can be found at in the video features section.

Insurance Journal, a unit of Wells Publishing, specializes in providing property casualty news and information for all regions of the country. Insurance Journal publishes five regional print magazines, offers the popular Daily Headlines e-mail newsletter, and maintains one of the industry’s most active Web sites.