Jul 19
Big I NY Responds To New Rules On Life Insurance Agents

​Lou Atti, Big I New York chair of the board, made the following statement today in response to the New York State Department of Financial Services final adoption of new rules governing the sale of life insurance and annuities. The rules require insurance producers to meet a "best interest" standard when recommending products to insurance buyers, rather than recommending products that are "suitable" for them.

"Independent insurance agents and brokers are committed to providing the best possible products and services to their customers every day. We appreciate the fact that the Department of Financial Services is striving to protect consumers who purchase insurance. Also, I want to acknowledge and thank the department for the efforts it made taking into account some of the issues we raised with earlier proposals. However, we still have concerns about the regulation that the department has adopted. We believe it will make buying life insurance more complicated for consumers and lead to fewer consumers buying these important policies.

We are reviewing with our member agents and brokers the changes the department has adopted, to determine their ultimate impact on consumers. We wholeheartedly support the goal of protecting our customers. Our review will seek to determine whether the regulation will further complicate life and annuity sales in New York, resulting in fewer policies sold where the consumer has access to advice and recommendations from an insurance professional."

Jul 02
Big I, ACT Caution Agents To Get Permission Before Texting Clients

​The Big I legal staff, along with the Agents Council for Technology (ACT) have updated a memo advising agents to get their clients' permission for text messaging. The memo, originally published last winter, was updated last month to include information about a recent federal court decision.

According to the memo, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has broadly interpreted the meaning of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which Congress passed in 1991. That law requires businesses to obtain individuals' permission before making bulk commercial phone calls (also known as "robocalls") to them. The FCC has interpreted that to mean that calls made from a device with the capability of making bulk calls are covered by the permission requirement, even if the that capability is not used. The commission has extended this interpretation to include text messaging.

Consequently, the FCC's regulations imply that they might apply to messages an insurance agent sends to a single phone number from a personal smartphone. They do not say this specifically, but the implication is there. If the FCC interprets the rule strictly, an agent who texts an existing or potential client without obtaining permission first could be subject to fines.

A March decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the FCC's contention that any device capable of making robocalls is automatically subject to the regulations. This has left the legal requirements uncertain. Because of this uncertainty, the Big I/ACT memo strongly recommends "that an agency require its clients to sign or decline an opt-in form at the beginning of the relationship, and ideally, each year thereafter."

The memo provides a sample opt-in form and text messaging terms and conditions for Big I members to use. As this is an exclusive member benefit, members must log in to the site with their Big I New York user IDs and passwords in order to download the memo.

Jun 29
Equifax Signs Consent Decree with Eight State Banking Commissioners Including New York

​Equifax has signed a consent order with the Department of Financial Services (DFS) and seven other state banking regulators, agreeing to take corrective actions following the company's massive 2017 data breach.  Included in the corrective actions is developing a proper risk assessment and improving the Board's oversight of information security information. Equifax will also be required to submit plans for remedial actions and provide written reports outlining progress.  DFS led the multi-state examination team on matters relating to cybersecurity and internal audit functions.

This consent decree follows issuance of a final regulation (23 NYCRR 201) earlier this week that will place new restrictions and responsibilities on credit reporting agencies in New York. Credit agencies with significant operations in New York will be required to register annually with the DFS and comply with New York's cybersecurity standards.

Read the DFS press release on the Equifax consent decree.

Kathy Weinheimer, CPCU, AAI
Senior VP Industry Relations

Jun 22
Big I NY Scores Wins As Legislative Session Ends

​The Legislative session concluded in the early morning hours yesterday. Lawmakers are not expected to return until January 2019.

Big I New York scored several wins for agents this year. Below is a summary of some of the noteworthy bills that PASSED during the session.

It has been a very busy legislative year. You can always feel confident that Big I NY has your back.

Big I New York's Business Entity Licensing Simplification Bill (S.6445/A.8484)

Big I New York successfully championed passage of a bill it developed to address a major issue for members concerning their multiple business entity license renewal dates. The association has been working on this bill for the last couple sessions, meeting with both DFS officials and lawmakers to develop a bill that would be agreeable to all parties.

Since agencies that sell insurance are licensed for all lines of insurance and are licensed as both agents and brokers, they must keep track of three separate renewal dates.

This bill would establish June 30 of odd-numbered years as the one common expiration date for all business entity licenses, making the renewal process much simpler for agents. 

Pre-licensing Education (S.7634A/A.9527)

Another top priority bill that Big I New York supported will make it easier for those people who want to be licensed as property/casualty and personal lines insurance agents to complete their required pre-licensing education. Instead of requiring pre-licensing coursework to be conducted in a classroom setting, it allows the coursework to be taken through a correspondence course or a course offered over the internet. 

Electronic Delivery of Insurance Notices (A.1683/S.2526)

The bill would allow property casualty insurance companies to electronically deliver notices to customers, with their consent, even when a statute requires delivery by mail. The bill would also establish procedures designed to protect consumers.

Free Trade Zone (S.7746A/A.10634)

The bill extends the current provision that permits certain qualified insurers to write insurance without the Department of Financial Services' prior approval of rates and forms, from June 30, certain2019 to June 30, 2023. 

Stop Loss Extender (A.11014/S.8995)

Big I New York also supported a bill that would extend for an additional five years the grandfathering of mid-sized groups with 51-100 employees that currently self-fund health benefits with stop loss coverage.

Due to changes made in the law to reflect the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, stop loss insurance was prohibited in New York in 2013.

Fortunately, during the past two legislative sessions, the law was amended to create a "grandfather period" to allow for stop loss coverage to continue for certain, eligible self-funded, midsized groups. 

Small Business Regulatory Relief (A.8205/S.4120)

The bill would provide regulatory relief to many small agencies that violate a state agency regulation.

The bill requires all state agencies to allow a first-time small business rule violator with the opportunity to cure or take ameliorative action before a penalty is imposed. A small business is defined as one resident in the state, independently owned and operated, not dominant in its field and which employs one hundred or fewer people. This bill would prevent DFS from levying fines and penalties against small insurance agencies that may have simply made a mistake. 

Paid Family Leave Expansion (S.8380/A.10639)

The bill adds bereavement leave for the death of a family member to the list of reasons paid family leave may be taken. The expansion would take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Workers' Comp for TNC drivers (S.8929/A.10970)

The bill will ensure that transportation network company (TNC) drivers will continue to receive workers' compensation coverage through the New York Black Car Operators' Injury Compensation Fund, Inc. The enacting legislation had only provided for this coverage for a limited period. 

Cockloft Credit

Requires the DFS to provide for an actuarially appropriate reduction in the rates of fire insurance premiums or the fire insurance component of homeowner's insurance premiums applicable to residential real property equipped with smoke detecting alarm devices in cock lofts. It also requires DFS to develop regulations to establish standards for smoke detecting alarm devices in cock lofts, including the safe and secure installation thereof. A cock loft is a completely enclosed space between rafters and a suspended ceiling. 

CE Credit for Association Membership (A.7012B/S.3960A)

This bill allows membership in a statewide professional insurance association to be counted as six credits of an insurance producer's continuing education requirements. The bill recognizes the vital role associations play in educating their membership about important business issues. While we support the concept, we have concerns over its implementation and will continue our work to ensure it would be positive for members.

HSAs (S.5890B/A.8176A)

This bill extends a provision of the insurance law which allows HMOs to offer to certain municipalities a group high deductible health plan in conjunction with a health reimbursement account or a health savings account, provided that the plan is offered pursuant to an existing collective bargaining agreement between the municipalities and its employees and that the municipality pays the deductible on behalf of its employees. The provisions of this bill would sunset on December 31, 2021.

Design Professional Liability (S.6622A/A8293-A) 

The bill provides that in contracts for public works, design professionals (engineers, architects and surveyors) may not be required to indemnify state agencies, public authorities and local governments for damages that are the responsibility of other parties, and that contract provisions that attempt to expand the defense and indemnification obligations of such design professionals to include damages caused by other parties are void and contrary to public policy.

ELANY Extender (S.7626/A.10584)

The bill extends the authorization for the Excess Lines Association until July 1, 2024.

Local Cost Data (S.2746/A.808)

This bill would require independent adjusters issued a temporary permit by the superintendent of financial services to utilize cost data that is appropriate for the region of the state where they are adjusting. It would make it an unfair claims settlement practice for insurers to artificially lower cost data used for adjusted claims or use cost data that is not appropriate for the region of the state where the loss occurred.

Workers' Compensation-Acupuncturists (S.6666/A.7431)

This bill authorizes the care and treatment of injured employees by a duly licensed and registered acupuncturist under the workers' compensation program.

DMV Reexamination (A.11121/S.8990)

The bill would authorize the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to require driver's license holders to submit to a DMV reexamination of their fitness to drive if the licensee experienced a loss of consciousness and was involved in a reportable accident while driving and DMV receives evidence that the loss of consciousness caused or contributed
to the accident.

Rental Vehicle Law Extender (S.8317/A.11097)

To extend the provisions of GBL § 396-z relating to certain rental vehicle protections for an additional five years.

Rental Vehicle Law Updates (S.8389/A.5270)

Updates and adds several consumer protections to the rental vehicle law. It also clarifies language regarding the timeframe an insurer has the right to inspect a damaged rental vehicle.

Jun 22
Big I NY Submits New Comments On Proposed Life Insurance Reg

In December, DFS proposed changes to Insurance Regulation 187 that would add a new "best interests" standard to the sale of all life insurance products and annuities and would apply the same suitability analysis currently in place for annuities to certain life insurance transactions. 

Big I New York met with the DFS to discuss its concerns with the proposed rules which would add new requirements for insurance producers that sell life insurance in the state. We also submitted an initial comment letter to the DFS outlining those concerns.

The Department has made several changes to the original proposal which take into account some of the issues we had raised. However, even with these changes we still have concerns and have submitted additional comments for consideration.  

Ultimately, our aim is to prevent this proposal from further complicating the path for consumers to obtain this important protection. 

Read Our Concerns

Jun 07
New NYSIF Feature Allows Secure Upload of Financial Records

​NYSIF announced today a new feature on nysif.com, enabling you and your clients to conveniently and securely upload financial records in lieu of an on-premise audit or to resolve an audit issue. The new application securely routes the uploaded documents based on audit status or locality to the appropriate NYSIF auditor or NYSIF business office.

Examples of forms that can be uploaded include:

  • Employee tax forms
  • Income tax returns
  • Payroll tax returns
  • Contracts, bills and invoices (for labor, services and materials) 
  • Certificates of insurance for subcontractors used 
  • General ledger 

All you need is a policy number and the audit number or appointment ID to get started. Click Preparing for Your Audit under the Employer tab at nysif.com for more information

Kathy Weinheimer, CPCU, AAI
Senior VP Industry Relations

May 31
How Will Single Payer Work?

​Each year for the last several years the Assembly passes a bill that would establish a single payer health system in New York.  So far the Republican-controlled Senate has not taken up this issue.  As we wind down the 2018 legislative session the Assembly will once again vote on a single payer bill.

Here are some questions and answers about what to expect if single payer health insurance becomes reality in New York.  According to a report published by the Empire Center, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank based in Albany, NY, taxes would need to be raised by $92 billion to cover the cost of a state-run single payer system. Big I New York opposes efforts to establish a single payer system in New York.

 

 

 CURRENT SYSTEMSINGLE PAYER
What plans are available?
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Veterans' Administration
  • Workers' Compensation
  • Other government programs
  • Employer-provided benefits
  • Privately purchased coverage
New York Health Plan
Who is eligible?
  • The elderly or disabled
  • The poor
  • Veterans
  • Injured workers
  • Employees of firms offering benefits
  • Individuals who purchase coverage
All New York residents regardless of immigration status
What care is provided?Varies according to planAll office visits, tests, procedures, hospital stays, medications
What providers are covered?Varies according to planAll available providers
What costs are covered?Varies according to planAll expenses with no copayments, coinsurance, or deductibles
Who negotiates fees with providersFederal government, state government, employers, private health plansState government
Who manages care?Federal government, state government, employers, private health plansState government
Who pays?Taxpayers, employers, employees, individual premium payersTaxpayers

 

This information was adapted from material published by the Empire Center.  For more information visit www.empirecenter.org

Kathy Weinheimer, CPCU, AAI
Senior VP Industry Relations

 

May 31
Single Payer Will Be Front and Center Next Week

The news:  Be on the lookout the week of June 4 for a grassroots call to action on single payer health insurance targeting the Assembly.

Why it matters:  The Assembly is expected to vote on a single payer health bill on June 5 , the same day that advocates for the bill will also be in Albany.  We have been coordinating with several groups opposed to single payer health who will also be doing similar messaging in a coordinated effort.

Our stance:  Big I New York opposes efforts to establish a single payer health system in New York.  The cost to taxpayers is estimated to be $92 billion.

Kathy Weinheimer, CPCU, AAI
Senior VP Industry Relations

May 31
Big I New York Licensing Bill Clears Hurdle and Heads to Floor for Vote

The news:  Big I New York's bill to consolidate renewal dates for corporate licenses was approved by both the Senate and Assembly Insurance Committees this week.  S.6445A (Seward) and A.8484A (Cahill) now head to the floor for a vote, possibly as early as next week.

Why it matters: Corporate licenses currently renew on three different dates, depending on the type of license.  This legislation will establish one common business entity renewal date, lifting an administrative burden for our members.

Our stance:  Big I New York wrote this bill to provide a solution for our members and we are happy to see it moving through the Legislature.

Kathy Weinheimer, CPCU, AAI
Senior VP Industry Relations

May 29
Guidance Issued for Producer Comp for A&H Policies

The News: We've had a few inquiries from licensed accident and health agents and brokers about a recent Circular Letter they received from the Department of Financial Services (DFS).   Supplement No. 1 to Insurance Circular Letter No. 20 (2017) was published on May 3, 2018 and was sent to insurers (collectively referred to as “issuers" in the Circular Letter) authorized to write accident and health insurance as well as agents and brokers licensed to sell accident and health insurance in New York State.  This Circular Letter primarily addresses the requirements for comprehensive medical policies and contracts.

Why it Matters:  The purpose of the Circular Letter is to provide additional guidance and clarification to policy issuers and their agents and brokers on the requirements for producer compensation. This supplement clarifies the rules governing how and when an agent or broker may be compensated either from premium according to an issuer's rate filings or according to an agreement that provides for payment from a policyholder.

Why did agents and brokers receive this?   The Supplement and the Circular Letter is directed primarily to issuers but, as a party to the transaction, agents and brokers need to be aware of the rules as well. The Circular also reiterates that compensation paid by a policyholder to a broker is not part of the insurance premium and as such may not be considered by an issuer when setting a broker's compensation.

No action is necessary by agents and brokers who received this Circular Letter.

Kathy Weinheimer, CPCU, AAI
Senior VP Industry Relations

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