On November 8, 2012, nearly 400 members of IIAC, industry representatives and exhibitors gathered at the Aqua Turf in Southington for the annual IIAC Mid Year Convention. The event came just two days after the heavily watched national election and just 10 days after Hurricane Sandy, which brought devastation to Fairfield County and Connecticut’s shoreline. Both made for key topics of discussion, as did the impending Affordable Care Act and Connecticut Insurance Exchange, the persistent issue of taxes and tax policy and issues involving industry growth and what the future may look like for independent agents,
The entire session was informative and highly topical. IIAC Chairman Michael Gergler and President Warren Ruppar were very pleased with how the day turned out and how much energy it generated. In addition to Michael Gergler, the Mid Year Convention featured Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi, IIABA National President and CEO Robert Rusbuldt, Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange CEO Kevin Counihan, and a panel of leading industry people from around the country.
It is going to be an interesting and busy year for independent agents as well as the insurance industry as a whole, and the Mid Year Convention gave everyone an idea as to what is to come.
THOMAS LEONARDI, COMMISSIONER, CONNECTICUT INSURANCE DEPARTMENT
IIAC was pleased to be joined by Commissioner Leonardi this year, who as could be expected had Hurricane Sandy fresh on his mind during his talk. He addressed the massive outage problem that ensued throughout Southern Connecticut as well as Governor Malloy’s response to it.
“Our industry did extremely well” in responding to the storm, Commissioner Leonardi said. “But it was a real-life situation that we all learned from.”
Commissioner Leonardi gave updates on the goings on inside the Connecticut Insurance Department, and reminded IIAC members that the department is entirely funded by assessments of the insurance industry and no tax dollars at all fund it. He spoke of the expected hirings of 30 new people, a new Captive Unit modeled after a successful one in Vermont, and also spoke in-depth about the Affordable Care Act, which he said is “here to stay” following the Supreme Court’s affirmation of it last summer and President Obama’s re-election last week.
Commissioner Leonardi added that the Connecticut Insurance Exchange is being established now, and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman is heading the board that oversees it.
Michael Gergler and Warren Ruppar greatly appreciate Commissioner Leonardi taking the time to come to this year’s convention and thank him for an interesting and informative speech.
ROBERT RUSBULDT– IIABA PRESIDENT AND CEO
Robert Rusbuldt, President and CEO of IIABA, was next to address IIAC members. His topics ranged from the recent election to the impending issue of the “fiscal cliff,” and also touched upon tax policy as well as issues concerning insurance regulation, flood insurance and the Consumer Agent Portal, which are critical to independent agents.
“This was a status quo election – Barack Obama is still President, the Senate is still Democratic, and the House is still Republican,” he said. “Though there was a sort of disconnect – it appears the vote this year was more based on likability than on the economy.”
Mr. Rusbuldt discussed some of the inevitabilities that are now certain to take place in Washington D.C. – taxes will go up on January 1, Dodd-Frank will stay in place, and the Affordable Care Act is here to stay. “There are consequences to elections, and the agenda in Congress will be impacted by these elections,” he said.
Mr. Rusbuldt addressed the issue of the “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax increases and budget cuts set to occur on January 1 unless Congress and the President act to alter them. He said to have both take place, as is, at the same time could lead to an “economic disaster,” though he added that to that end, he is confident the two sides will reach a deal before then.
Mr. Rusbuldt also addressed the issue of key tax changes that are scheduled to take place on January 1. These include:
Changes to the Estate Tax
Increase in the Capital Gains Tax from 15% to 20%
Increase in the top income tax rate from 35% to 39.6%
The tax exclusion on dividends
Big I and Issues for Agents
Mr. Rusbuldt said that Connecticut agents have done a great job, especially in the last two years, with its support for InsurPAC – the Big I’s major political action committee – and urged agents to keep that momentum going. He also urged agents to continue to examine the Consumer Agent Portal, an online system that will allow them to compete better with internet insurance sales as well as with the captive agencies.
“We are right there and we are bipartisan,” Mr. Rusbuldt said. “It takes two wings to make an airplane fly. That is what we do for you.”
KEVIN COUNIHAN – CEO – CONNECTICUT HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE
The next speaker was Kevin Counihan, CEO of Connecticut’s Health Insurance Exchange, which is expected to be up and running due to the Affordable Care Act by sometime next year.
Mr. Counihan described the Exchange as a free market way for customers to purchase health insurance, one which provides a level playing field for health plans that, if done right, will promote competition. He ran through the options available to people, the income limitations and requirements and his overall vision for the Exchange. His goals are to:
Dramatically reduce the number of uninsured people in Connecticut
Provide options for health care
Provide innovation and competition
Facilitate discussion for more affordable health insurance options
Mr. Counihan’s efforts to walk through the vision and implementation of the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange was extremely helpful given the complexities surrounding the issue, and IIAC greatly appreciates his coming to speak to members.
As happens every year, IIAC convened a panel to discuss many of the key insurance issues of the day. This year’s panel was moderated by Michael Gergler, and its members included:
Michael Christiansen, Liberty Mutual Insurance (President, Northeast Region, Business Insurance)
William Donovan, C.E.A. (Vice President)
Jeffrey Updyke, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies (Senior Vice President)
The panel engaged in an energetic discussion of a number of topics, including storms and storm coverage, sales channels, the Consumer Agent Portal and the idea of 24/7 access, and overall growth in the industry.
Michael Gergler and Warren Ruppar agreed it was another excellent Mid Year Convention that offered plenty of valuable information to the nearly 400 attendees, and thanked all those in attendance for helping to make it as successful as it was.
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