An organization to streamline state-by-state agent and broker licensing could have been one presidential signature away from reality. The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which was supposed to include language establishing the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers, known as NARAB, as the U.S. Senate did on Jan. 30. However, NARAB was not in the final bill that passed the House.
It wasnt taken out but it just wasnt included, says Jill Hoffman, assistant vice president of federal government relations at the National Association for Insurance and Financial Advisors. What the House passed is not identical to the Senate language [of the flood bill] and they didnt put NARAB in. The reason, we were told from the Speakers office, is that they wanted a clean bill. They needed a clean bill because of the dynamics of the flood insurance bill.
NARAB is intended as a clearinghouse to cut through the red tape of licensing for insurance brokers across state lines; it calls for the creation of a 13-member board appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Members would be subject to background checks prior to joining.
Hoffman says her group will look for another vehicle to attach NARAB to in 2014, noting that the next insurance issue coming up is TRIA [the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act]. Another industry group, the Big I, says theres a slight possibility that if the flood insurance bill goes to committee between the House and Senate, NARAB could be included in any final legislation sent to the White House. However, its not likely, according to the group.
Does anyone care?
Matt Cowan, president of Cowan Benefit Services, Inc. in Franklin, Tenn., has a 20-year-old established business and has lived through the pains of multi-state licensing. It is certainly much easier today to be involved in multiple states because it used to be each state was completely different, he says, explaining that he and his colleagues would have to keep careful records of mail correspondence between each separate state insurance commission. Its much easier today with the Web. But, he says its still complicated.
I have not heard of it, he says, referring to NARAB. I can see where it would work.
NAIFAs Hoffman says every initiative her lobbying arm takes on is a direct request from their members. As staff, we are implementing whats asked of us, she says. If people arent aware of whats happening, theyre not reading or theyre not members of associations. Yes, we have members who dont know about it. Theres a lot of spam filters and information out there, but at a certain point its incumbent upon the agents and brokers to keep in touch.
She adds that the National Association of Health Underwriters is not actively lobbying for NARAB, so those who are just members of that organization might be less inclined to know about the initiative. NAHU was not immediately available to comment on why they have not been active in negotiations with Congress. Cowan says he is a member of NAHU and the International Society of Employee Benefits.
A standalone NARAB bill passed the U.S. House in September (H.R. 1155) but a re-vote was needed to reconcile with the Senates pairing of it with the flood insurance legislation due to an amendment threat on their standalone version by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who proposed that any state should be able to opt out of the bureau. Industry insiders like Hoffman say that would have gutted the bill. Most senators, however, were in favor of NARAB, which is why it eventually passed with the flood act.
Industry groups have been waiting for the passage of this organization through several congressional sessions, but Hoffman says theres still strong support for it to happen this year. We have many months left in this session and weve had two strong votes in each chamber, she says.
The Health Agents for America, Inc. group was eager for the NARAB language to go to vote with the flood insurance bill. The existing patchwork of state licensing requirements has caused countless insurance agents and brokers to lose clients that have moved to states in which the agent or broker was not licensed, the group said in a statement. This bill would make it easier for agents and brokers to conduct business in multiple states, while preserving state regulation of insurance and important consumer protections.
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Employee Benefit Adviser content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access