NAIC head to work D.C. ties

By Darla Mercado

Jan 27, 2013 @ 12:01 am (Updated 1:41 pm) EST

Former Sen. Ben Nelson
Former Sen. Ben Nelson (Bloomberg)

As the new head of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, former Sen. Ben Nelson plans to push to preserve state-based regulation while cooperating with the federal government and international insurance regulators.

Mr. Nelson, who last year finished his second term as a Democratic senator from Nebraska, started his new role with the NAIC last week, replacing Therese M. Vaughan, who retired in November after nearly four years at the helm of the group of state regulators.

The former senator will also join Agenda, a Washington-based public-affairs firm that specializes in state-level grass-roots advocacy.

Mr. Nelson will serve as a senior adviser and will help lead an advisory board. Although the firm doesn't lobby members of Congress, it coordinates third-party advocacy groups to push causes at the state and local levels.

During a conference call last week, Mr. Nelson stressed that just as the NAIC will aim to work with international and federal entities, preserving state-based regulation to protect consumers is paramount.

“The goal of the NAIC set by the commissioners is to find ways to work with the international forces, the regulators, the industry, the industry at home and the federal government to make sure the partnership developed at any level recognizes the importance of state regulation,” he said during the call.

Maintaining state-based insurance regulation is particularly important to the industry as states prepare to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and set up the health insurance exchanges that they are required to have in place by next year.

“There are concerns that continue to be raised about the expanded role of the federal government and the regulation of the business of insurance,” said Terry K. Headley, an adviser at Headley Financial Group.

The American Council of Life Insurers also thinks that Mr. Nelson could help push for regulatory modernization in an effort to preserve the state-based regulation, but with more uniformity across jurisdictions.

dmercado@investmentnews.com Twitter: @darla_mercado

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