July 24, 2009

Director Huff addresses agents; discusses earthquake, federal insurance regulation, licensing technology

Jefferson City, Mo. - Missouri Insurance Director John M. Huff addressed more than 130 members of the Missouri Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA) Friday, making a strong argument that states, rather than the federal government, should continue to regulate the insurance industry.

Huff held a Q&A Friday morning with MAIA Executive Vice President Larry Case at the group's 2009 Leadership Conference at the Lake of the Ozarks. Case said MAIA strongly opposes federal regulation of insurance, which is being advocated by some in Congress and the insurance industry. Huff agreed that states have successfully regulated insurance for more than 150 years, and that system should continue.

"For a century and a half, states have been protecting consumers, ensuring fair competition and affordable products," said Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP). "The prospect of an optional federal charter will dilute consumer protections by allowing some companies to choose the weaker regulatory option."

Case asked Huff about the availability and affordability of earthquake insurance in Missouri, especially in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Huff says because there is some consumer confusion about this product and its availability, the department is currently surveying the 20 largest homeowners writers in Missouri to find out what earthquake coverage they offer, along with details of their products, such as rates and deductibles.

Huff also said the department is now processing producer licensing much more efficiently, thanks to the adoption of State-Based Systems, a Web-based licensing database. With SBS, agents can now get same-day credit for continuing education hours and get their licensing applications processed in one business day. These services typically took three to five days before the department began using the new technology earlier this year.

Director Huff is available to speak to industry and consumer groups across Missouri. To request an appearance, contact the department at 573-751-1927 or insurance.mo.gov.