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Category: Advocacy

Jan 25
Statement from Big I NY on the Confirmation of Adrienne Harris as Superintendent of Financial Services

​Today, Big I New York, a statewide nonprofit trade association representing approximately 1,500 independent insurance agencies and their over 12,000 employees, congratulated Adrienne Harris on her confirmation by the NY Senate as the state’s Superintendent of Financial Services. 

“Adrienne Harris’ impressive experience as a public servant, educator, and leader in the financial services sector, combined with her thoughtful regulatory philosophy, make her exceptionally well-qualified to serve as one of the most important financial regulators in the nation,” said Lisa Lounsbury, Big I NY’s President and CEO. “We congratulate her on this extraordinary achievement, and are confident she will serve the people of New York with honor and distinction.” 

Ron Brunell, CIC, Chair of the Big I NY Board said, “We are excited to work with Superintendent Harris to protect insurance customers and ensure the state enjoys a vibrant, thriving insurance market with affordable coverage options for all.”​

Jan 21
Albany Update: Changes to Insurance Disclosure Bill Introduced, Executive Budget Released, Harris Confirmation Begins

As expected, chapter amendments to the Comprehensive Insurance Disclosure Act (CIDA) were introduced this week, which resolve our most serious concerns. The original bill, which we strongly opposed, would have required the automatic disclosure of all insurance information within 60 days of litigation, including the full policy application. This could have created substantial burdens and potential E&O exposure for agents, as well as compromising sensitive customer information. The chapter amendments remove the policy application from automatic disclosure, lengthen the time frame to 90 days, and will exempt motor vehicle PIP litigation. The amended CIDA is not expected to have a significant impact on independent agents.

The amendments will be retroactive back to the original effective date of the CIDA, eliminating the possibility that defendants will be forced to comply with the original, far more burdensome requirements, if disclosure is requested prior to passage of the chapter amendments. The amendments are expected to be passed and signed into law swiftly, prior to the March 1 disclsoure deadline in the original bill. 

On Tuesday, January 18th, Governor Hochul released her executive budget. The $216 billion budget is balanced and includes no new tax increases. Relevant items include:

  • Non-Compete/No-Poach Ban: A ban on non-compete agreements for workers making below the median wage in New York State and a total ban on “no-poach" agreements under State antitrust law. We believe the widespread ban on non-compete and no-poach agreements would be unnecessary and harmful to our industry.
  • Focus on Enhancing Current Healthcare System: The budget identifies numerous changes reduce the cost of healthcare and reduce the state's uninsured population, as well as rebuilding our healthcare workforce and economy. Conspicuously absent is any mention of a single-payer healthcare system. We are encouraged to see Governor Hochul focus on enhancing the current health insurance system rather than supporting a costly and unnecessary single-payer system.
  • Infrastructure Projects: The Governor's commitment to rebuilding infrastructure as a driver of economic recovery, including $1B each for bridge and highway repair programs and a multitude of infrastructure projects across the state, will benefit the construction industry.

On Monday, January 24th, The New York State Senate will begin the confirmation process of Acting DFS Superintendent Adrienne Harris. The Senate Insurance Committee will begin the confirmation hearings at 10:00, and will be webcast here. To be confirmed, she must receive a majority vote in the Insurance Committee, Banking Committee, and by the full Senate.

Harris brings extensive experience in economics and financial services. She served as a special assistant for economic policy for President Obama at the National Economic Council, and previously worked for the Brunswick Group as a senior advisor to financial companies, venture capital firms, and fintechs. Since leaving the White House in January 2017, Harris went on to serve as General Counsel and Chief Business Officer, and presently as Advisor at States Title, Inc. (now DOMA), which provides title insurance and settlement services in a number of state throughout the nation. She currently serves as a Professor and Faculty Co-Director at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy's Center on Finance, Law and Policy at the University of Michigan.

 


Jan 14
Albany Update: Anti Arson Application Repeal Bill Passes Assembly

On December 12, the NYS Assembly passed Big I NY-supported legislation to eliminate an unnecessary ​burden on customers by repealing the anti-arson application statewide. 

Section 3403 of the Insurance Law requires the completion of an “anti-arson application" for people seeking property insurance for fire or explosion to complete. If a policyholder fails to complete this application, which is required upon initial application for insurance and on each subsequent renewal of the policy, the insurer must cancel the policy. 

Technology has advance dramatically since the application was first required, and the law has outlived its usefulness. Insurance companies today are required by law to have fraud prevention plans, which are filed with the State, on how they detect, investigate, and prevent fraudulent activities. These fraud prevention plans are far more effective than the anti-arson application form which simply asks a series of questions. The law is just a paperwork burden for policyholders who risk losing coverage if the paperwork is not completed. Recent legislation scaled back the current law to remove cities with a population of less than 1 million, leaving New York City as the last jurisdiction with this requirement.

Big I NY thanks the bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (D, Brooklyn) for championing this critical pro-customer reform. The bill must now pass the Senate and be signed by the governor before becoming law. 

Jan 14
New Insurance Disclosure Law: Changes Soon, Confusion Now

What Happened:

On December 31st, Governor Hochul signed the “Comprehensive Insurance Disclosure Act"​ (CIDA) on the condition that the legislature would swiftly pass several changes to the bill, referred to as “chapter amendments." The bill as signed​ requires, among other things, defendants in a lawsuit to automatically disclose all insurance information, including the policy application, within 60 days of answering for new actions and by March 31, 2022 for all pending actions. The chapter amendments agreed upon by Governor Hochul and the legislative leaders would exempt the policy application from automatic disclosure. These amendments are expected to be passed soon, but at the time of writing they have not been introduced in either house.

How it Affects You:

The CIDA took effect on December 31,2021, and while beneficial amendments are in the works and virtually certain to be adopted, the law as originally written currently stands. We have heard from several members whose customers have already been notified of the requirement to produce all insurance information. Furthermore, while we fully expect the chapter amendments exempting insurance applications from automatic disclosure will be passed prior to the March 1st deadline, we do not yet know if the amendments will be retroactive back to the December 31, 2021.  

Big I NY Has Your Back:

We will closely monitor and report on the status of the CIDA chapter amendments and if they are retroactive. Throughout 2021, Big I NY consistently opposed the CIDA, culminating with a statewide call-in campaign to Governor Hochul. We are pleased that our greatest concern with the bill, disclosure of the full policy application, will be resolved. 


Jan 07
Albany Update: State of the State Address, Favorable Amendments on Insurance Disclosure Bill, Modernization Bills Signed

On Wednesday, Governor Hochul kicked off the official start of the 2022 legislative session with her first State of the State address. Speaking from the Assembly Chamber, Hochul outlined her agenda for the coming year. The wide ranging address outlined initiatives for economic recovery, strengthening the healthcare economy, investing in infrastructure and renewable energy, and restoring trust in government. Notably, she proposed constitutional amendment to impose a two-term limit for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller.

Key Takeaways from State of the State:

  • Non-Compete/No-Poach Ban Proposed: Governor Hochul indicated she would propose legislation to eliminate non-compete agreements for workers making below the median wage in New York State and to explicitly ban all “no-poach" agreements under State antitrust law. It is unclear to what extent this proposal would affect the IA community, since it does not specify if commissions are included in “median wage" and/or if this wage is by industry and occupation, as is reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We believe the widespread ban on non-compete and no-poach agreements would be unnecessary and harmful to our industry. This legislation has yet to be introduced.
  • Focus on Enhancing Current Healthcare System: The State of the State briefing book identifies numerous changes reduce the cost of healthcare and reduce the state's uninsured population, as well as rebuilding our healthcare workforce and economy. Conspicuously absent is any mention of a single-payer healthcare system. We are encouraged to see Governor Hochul focus on enhancing the current health insurance system rather than supporting a costly and unnecessary single-payer system.
  • Infrastructure Projects: The Governor's commitment to rebuilding infrastructure as a driver of economic recovery, including $1B each for bridge and highway repair programs and a multitude of infrastructure projects across the state, will benefit your customers in the construction industry.

Hochul Signs Insurance Disclosure with Big I NY-Supported Amendments:

Following our grassroots call-in campaign which drew well over 100 phone calls from concerned agents, Governor Hochul signed the Comprehensive Insurance Disclosure Act on the condition that several favorable amendments be made. The original bill, which we strongly opposed, would have required the automatic disclosure of all insurance information within 60 days of litigation, including the full policy application. This could have created substantial burdens and potential E&O exposure for agents, as well as compromising sensitive customer information. The agreed upon amendments remove the policy application from automatic disclosure, lengthen the time frame to 90 days, and will not apply to motor vehicle PIP litigation. This is a significant win for independent agents and our customers, and it would not have been possible without all who took the time to voice your concerns!

Insurance Modernization Bills Signed:

Governor Hochul signed into law S.653-A (Sanders)/A.651-A (Rosenthal)​, which modernizes the insurance law to allow e-delivery of notices of cancellation, discontinuance or other major changes to property and casualty policies. Furthermore, legislation was signed to improve the customer experience by allowing notarizations to be performed via video conference (S.1780-C Skoufis/A.399-B Rozic)​


Jan 07
Health Insurance Compensation Disclosure Guidance, Sample Form Available

​Guidance to help agents and brokers comply with a new federal law requiring disclosure of health insurance compensation is now available from the Big "I" and the federal government. The requirement took effect late last month.

Section 202 of the December 2020 omnibus government funding legislation signed into law by former President Donald Trump included new compensation disclosure requirements for health insurance agents and brokers. The requirements took effect on Dec. 27, 2021.

After the requirements took effect last week, the Department of Labor (DOL) released Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2021-03, which provides further guidance and announces the DOL's temporary enforcement policy for group health plan service provider disclosures under ERISA section 408(b)(2)(B).

The Big “I" worked with outside counsel to produce a FAQ document and sample disclosure form, which includes the new guidance from DOL. In consultation with the Big “I" Government Affairs and Big “I" Office of General Counsel staff, these documents were prepared by Brad Campbell, a partner at the law firm of Faegre, Drinker, Biddle & Reath LLP and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits.​

Dec 03
Big I WNY Hosts Lawmakers, Agents at Annual Legislative Breakfast

On Wednesday, December 1st, Big I Western NY hosted their annual Virtual Legislative Breakfast. Member agents from across the region and a bipartisan group of nearly a dozen state lawmakers and staff members participated in the event, whichn was focused on Big I NY's key legislative issues.

Scott Hobson, Big I NY's AVP of Government Relations provided an update on developments during the past year, including progress on our bill to make auto photo inspections voluntary, streamlining the process for placing coverage in the excess market, and the unanimous appellate court ruling in our favor declaring Insurance Regulation 187 unconstitutional. The event also featured a look forward to key issues in 2022, including supporting photo inspection reform and opposing single payer healthcare and a ban on the use of lead paint exclusions in rental property coverage.

Read Big I NY's full position paper here.​

The event also included a robust discussion between agents and lawmakers on the issues and how to advocate for progress. A key message from lawmakers: agent participation in the political process is critical!

Thank you to all who attended the legislative breakfast.


Dec 02
What is InsurPac...and Why Does it Matter?

insurpac video still 2.PNGDo you know about InsurPac, and why it is crucially important?

If you care about the future of our industry, you should.

InsurPac is our national political committee. It allows us to support candidates for congress who understand the importance of the IA system, and the value we provide our customers.

Relationships are what makes the difference in the IA system, and it's what makes a difference in our advocacy efforts on your behalf on Capitol Hill. InsurPac helps us build and enhance relationships with key decision makers, just like you do with your customers every day.

InsurPac raises and distributes approximately $2.3 million each election cycle, making it one of the largest small business PACs in the country. It is funded by voluntary, personal, LLC and Partnership contributions from independent agents, brokers and agencies throughout the country. It works hand in hand with the Big I advocacy team to promote, protect and perpetuate the independent agency system.

Learn more about InsurPac here!


Nov 19
​ Albany Update: Big I NY Opposes Mandatory Insurance Disclosure Bill, UI Tax Hikes

This week, Big I NY joined a broad coalition of business, municipal, and construction groups in calling on Governor Hochul to veto the “Comprehensive Insurance Disclosure Act". The bill would require the automatic disclosure of virtually all information related to a defendant's insurance coverage and information, including insurance applications. Typically such information is obtained through discovery, in which a judge has discretion to allow only relevant materials to be disclosed. The practical effect of this bill would be to put significant discovery costs on defendants, and give plaintiffs attorneys a trove of information to engage in a litigation “fishing expedition," pursuing claims based on a defendant's available coverage rather than the liability for alleged harms. This will worsen the state's already abysmal legal climate, and further contribute to higher insurance costs.

Big I NY also joined the National Federation of Independent Businesses and multiple other employer associations in calling on Governor Hochul to use state and/or federal funds to alleviate significant unemployment insurance tax hikes and protect the solvency of the fund. The pandemic completely upended the Unemployment Insurance system. The private sector shed more than 1.7 million jobs in March 2020, driving unemployment from 4.4 percent to 16.2 percent. Extraordinary amounts of money flowed out of New York's UI Trust Fund to satisfy claims, and the State needed to borrow more than $11 billion from the federal government. The outstanding loan and completely depleted UI Trust Fund have forced all employers into the highest employer contribution rates allowable under New York's UI tax tables, meaning all businesses are paying the highest possible UI tax rate related to the fund balance. With $9.3 billion outstanding on the state's federal UI advance, New York employers are subject to these highest rates for years. We asked the state to consider several UI tax relief measures, including:

  • Restore New York's UI tax levels to their pre-pandemic, 2019 levels (based on the state UI fund balance), i.e., application of the tax table column based on a state account balance of 2.5 to 3 percent (S.6791/A.7788);
  • Use a combination of available federal and state funds to finance the cost of any regular UI benefits paid in 2022 that exceed the amount of state employer-paid UI taxes;
  • Pay any interest payments due on New York State's federal UI program advance for calendar years 2022 and 2023; and
  • Offset any increase in net FUTA taxes applicable to New York employers for calendar years 2022 and 2023.

Replenishing the UI Trust Fund should not and cannot solely fall on the backs of  New York employers for actions mandated by state government and which have already suffered immense financial harm.


Nov 01
​ Governor Hochul Signs Bill Prohibiting Consideration of Dog Breed in Underwriting

​On October 30th, Governor Hochul signed legislation prohibiting insurance carriers from refusing to issue, renew, cancel, or charge a higher premium for a homeowners' liability coverage based upon specific breed of an insured's dog. Big I NY opposed this legislation, expressing concerns that limiting underwriting flexibility would lead higher premiums for all homeowners. The legislation takes effect January 28th, 2022, and applies to all policies issued, renewed, modified, altered or amended on or after that date.  


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