IIA of Oklahoma NewsBites by: Dan Ramsey, CIC
4/6/11 - Notes from State Capitol
As many of you are aware the legislature recently passed and the Governor signed two bills that will significantly change the court system in Oklahoma. SB862 will put an end to joint and several liability claims and will hold the party at fault to be responsible - not the person with the deepest pockets. HB2128 puts a $350,000 cap on non-economic damages. The cap can be lifted, however, if there is evidence of egregious behavior. The bills passed each chamber by narrow margins. IIAO strongly supported both of these pieces of legislation. We issued a Voter Voice alert on HB2128 - over 150 of our members responded and I believe had a significant impact on the outcome. Thank you for your efforts.
I am providing a list of the legislators who voted in support of each bill. Please take time to thank those who supported the bill either by calling their office, sending them an e-mail, or just the next time you see them. Links to legislator contact information can be found here.
The following is a list of State Senators who voted in favor of SB862: Aldridge, Allen, Anderson, Barrington, Bingman, Branan, Brecheen, Brinkley, Brown, Coates, Crain, David, Fields, Ford, Halligan, Holt, Rob Johnson, Jolley, Justice, Marlatt, Mazzei, Myers, Newberry, Nichols, Paddack, Russell, Schulz, Shortey, Simpson, Stanislawski, Sykes, and Treat.
The following is a list of House members who voted in favor of SB862: Armes, Banz, Billy, Blackwell, Brumbaugh, Casey, Cockroft, Coody, Cooksey, Cox, DeWitt, Denney, Derby, Farley, Faught, Grau, Hall, Hardin, Hickman, Hilliard, Hollland, Jackson, Johnson, Jordan, Joyner, Kern, Kirby, Liebmann, Scott Martin, Steve Martin, McCullough, McDaniel, McNiel, Moore, Morgan, Mulready, Murphey, Nelson, Newell, Nollan, Ortega, Osborn, Ownbey, Peters, Peterson, Pruett, Quinn, Richardson, Ritze, Dustin Roberts, Sean Roberts, Sanders, Schwartz, Sears, Shannon, Steele, Stiles, Sullivan, Tibbs, Trebilcock, Vaughan, Watson, Wesselhoft, and Wright.
The following is a list of State Senators who voted in favor of HB2128: Aldridge, Allen, Anderson, Barrington, Bingman, Branan, Brecheen, Brown, Crain, David, Fields, Ford, Halligan, Holt, Rob Johnson, Jolley, Justice, Marlatt, Mazzei, Myers, Newberry, Nichols, Paddack, Reynolds, Schulz, Shortey, Simpson, Stanislawski, Sykes, and Treat.
The following is a list of House members who voted in favor of HB2128: Armes, Banz, Blackwell, Brumbaugh, Casey, Cockroft, Coody, Cooksey, Dank, DeWitt, Denney, Derby, Enns, Farley, Faught, Hall, Hardin, Hickman, Holland, Jackson, Johnson, Joyner, Kern, Kirby, Liebmann, Scott Martin, Steve Martin, McCullough, McDaniel, McNiel, Moore, Mulready, Murphey, Nelson, Newell, Nollan, Ortega, Ownbey, Peters, Peterson, Quinn, Richardson, Dustin Roberts, Sean Roberts, Russ, Sanders, Schwartz, Sears, Shannon, Steele, Sullivan, Thomsen, Tibbs, Vaughan, Watson, Wesselhoft, and Wright.
3/21/11 - Notes from State Capitol
While last week may have been Spring Break for many, it certainly was not such a time at the State Capitol. The Senate cut their week a day short by finishing up their work and going home Wednesday afternoon. The House, however, worked well into the night most evening (midnight Wednesday night) and most of Thursday, doing their business. It was a major week in the legislature as it was the final week that a bill had to pass from its House of Origin without being dead for the 2011 session. When the session began there were approximately 2,800 bills filed; after last week there are fewer than 700 remaining. We began “tracking” 97 bills; that list is down to 28.
Of those 28 bills there are some bills of great interest to IIAO members. The major workers compensation reform bill is SB878. It is almost 200 pages long and touches on many areas of the workers compensation system. There are still several House and Senate bills “alive” dealing with lawsuit reform. Some of the major ones are: CSHB2128, HB2023, CSHB2024, and SB862. Some cap limits of liability, one will eliminate joint and several liability, and others address additional ways to try to bring order to our court system. HB2080 will prevent stacking of uninsured motorist liability limits. SB189 will not allow for the payment of non-economic damages (pain & suffering) for people who are injured in an accident who do not carry liability insurance, are fleeing felons, or are driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Insurance Department has offered several bills of great interest: CSHB1243, CSHB2072, and SB407 cover areas such as revision of the continuing education requirements and certificates of insurance. CSHB2130 is legislation that creates the health insurance exchange. We hope to have the bill amended to include additional representation on the Board that oversees the exchange; allowing for additional exchanges to be made available to compete with any state-based exchange; and inclusion of agent compensation in the exchange process. SB928 is a bill that will amend the roofing contractor registration law that was passed last year. We were able to “kill” HB2079 which would have dramatically changed the rebating laws in Oklahoma. IIAO would like for the Insurance Department to lead a discussion with industry representation to study this issue and hopefully bring back legislation next year that will allow IIAO members to provide services that will help distinguish themselves in the marketplace, but not violate industry standards. (CS before a bill number means it is a Committee Substitute and represents the latest version prior any additional amendments made to the bill on the Floor.)
These are all very big items. I never dreamed when the session began that our industry would be so directly impacted by all of the legislation that would be proposed.
3/3/11 - Notes from House Insurance Committee meeting
In what was one of the most interesting committee meetings I have ever attended, either as a member of the House of Representatives or in my current position, the House Insurance Committee met last Thursday morning. The meeting began at 8, broke for session around 9, reconvened around 10:30 and went past 1 o’clock – when Susan Titus and I finally left. It began with HB1046 by Rep. Faught. This was the bill proposed that would change CompSource Oklahoma into a mutual insurance company. Rep. Faught did an excellent job of presenting the bill, but in the end, it failed by a vote of 4 to 7, so that issue is dead. The next bill of great interest to me was HB2079 by Rep. Key. He is the Chairman of the House Insurance Committee. I had looked at the bills on the agenda and reviewed them Wednesday morning. Chairman Key was the author of several “shell” bills which means they really didn’t have any language in them, so didn’t know what they were going to do. Since this was the last day to get bills started in the House out of committee hearings, there was a strong likelihood that language would develop before Thursday’s meeting. On Wednesday afternoon I received a call informing me that HB2079 was going to be amended to add language that would allow for the discounting of credentialing services of physicians in connection with the sale of medical malpractice insurance would not be considered to be a form of rebating. I was very surprised to learn of this because I had been meeting for the past few weeks with several parties discussing this matter – legislation had never been mentioned as a possibility. I was not a happy camper. In my 12 years at IIAO I have never spoke for or against a bill at a committee meeting, but I felt compelled to speak against this bill because of the ramifications that allowing for “rebating” of these services, in my opinion, is contrary to the anti-rebating statute. I knew it would be tough to defeat the Chairman, but took it on anyway. Scott Salmon and an attorney for another IIAO member spoke against the bill as well. At the end the bill passed out of committee, but Chairman Key agreed that he would take the title off of the bill to allow for us to provide additional input. HB2072 by Rep. Key is the annual omnibus bill from the Oklahoma Insurance Department. We had a couple of significant items in the bill this year. One will provide for some significant changes in the CE laws which should be of greater liking to IIAO members; the other puts language in the statute regarding certificates of insurance. I am very appreciative of the Department for working with us on these matters. I would also like to commend Susie Current, IIAO Director of Education, for the excellent job she has done in working to bring about these changes. The last bill we stayed for was HB2071 by Rep. Key. What happened to that bill was pretty amazing – something I have never seen happen before. This was another shell bill that was supposed to relate to deal with the Oklahoma Annual Financial Report Act – this is something to do with the annual financial reporting of insurance companies. The bill when presented, however, was presented as a way to make CompSource Oklahoma a hybrid company where it would remain in its present form, but allow for claims handling and settling of current reserves (estimated at around $900 million) to be outsourced to a private company. Rep. Dank questioned whether the bill regarding workers compensation (Title 85) was germane to the insurance code (Title 36). The ruling from the Chair was that it was germane. Rep. Dank then called for a vote from the committee as to whether or not to hear the bill. The committee voted not to hear the bill, so Chairman Key’s bill was killed. It is extremely unusual - perhaps not totally unprecedented, but certainly a rare event – when a committee chairman has a bill killed over germaneness.
2/24/11 - Notes from House Insurance & Senate Retirement & Insurance Committee meetings
Yesterday a couple of pretty good things happened at these committee meetings. In the Senate, SB962 by Senator Bill Brown passed by a vote of 8-0. This bill will allow agents to charge fees in addition to commissions with disclosure to the client as to what the amount of the fees (either in percentage or dollar amount). The insured must sign an agreement to pay the fees. We requested this bill due to the ambiguity in the current law and the required reduction in commissions many health insurance companies are taking due to the federal health insurance law. It may be further amended to allow agents to accept fees in lieu of commissions. We have been very careful that the disclosure is only for the fees, not total compensation as is the case in several other states. In the House, HB2080 by Representative Charles Key will prohibit the stacking of uninsured motorist limits. This was another bill we requested and are greatly encouraged in its passage from Committee and are anxious to work to try to continue to move this bill through. This would obviously be a huge victory!
So – it’s been a good week at the Capitol – Continuing Education reform is moving along nicely (thanks in large part to the cooperation of the Oklahoma Insurance Department); “No Pay/No Play” passed Committee to restrict non-economic damages to drivers who are driving, but not following the law (thanks to a stellar performance by Representative George Faught); flexible compensation options will hopefully be forthcoming for agents; and the potential to eliminate stacking of uninsured motorist.
2/22/11 - Notes from House Insurance Committee meeting
The House Insurance Committee did not meet last week as scheduled due to a memorial service in the Capitol for former State Representative John Bryant of Tulsa. I had the good pleasure to serve with John – he embodied the ingredients of what a legislator should be. Since leaving the legislature, he has worked as a contract lobbyist and left a strong reputation of honesty and integrity. It was a very fitting memorial service to one of the really good guys I have had the pleasure to know and serve with.
The Committee met bright and early at 8:00 a.m. today. For what was seemingly a calm meeting to begin with turned into something that was very interesting to watch. The good news is that all of the votes went our way! A Committee Substitute for HB1243 was presented to the Committee by Rep. Randy McDaniel of OKC. It is a bill that will help with some of the CE issues we are dealing with and restore some of the prior CE allowances for national designation programs such as CIC, CPCU, and others. Three health insurance bills were presented: HB1032 was some administrative cleanup that really didn’t have a great deal of substance to it. HB1250 was pulled from the agenda and will not be heard this session. It would have broadened protections under health insurance policies to pay the costs provided by “any willing provider”. This type of legislation has been introduced in the past, but has not gotten very far because of the increased cost that is certain to follow it. HB1827 was a health insurance mandate regarding prescription drugs for chemotherapy treatment. It would have dictated how medical treatment must be provided and would have resulted in increased cost. It was defeated as well.
The most activity was regarding HB1045 by Rep. George Faught from Muskogee. He was a real star! This is the same legislation he introduced and the legislature passed two years ago, but was vetoed by Governor Henry. It will restrict payment for only actual damages (bodily injury, loss of earnings, and physical damage repairs) to individuals involved in an automobile accident who do not carry automobile liability insurance, are a fleeing felon, or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident. Rep. Faught deflected several amendments that were irrelevant to the issue and were a distraction from his intent. He handled everything thrown his way in a stellar manner. He really “gets it”! The bill passed by a vote of 8 to 4.
Chairman Key wants to hear all bills assigned to his committee this session which means extra committee meetings. They will meet again tomorrow and Thursday. Normally committees only meet one time each week – except for meetings concerning appropriations – so it promises to be an unusual session in that regard. I will continue to try to keep you posted as things develop.
2/17/11 - The Senate Retirement & Insurance Committee met on 2/17. There were 23 bills on the agenda. The good news for us is that only 5 of them directly impacted independent agents. SB0397 is a bill that will allow attendance at an online CE class and remove the requirement of a course proctor. SB0407 improves CE requirements for agents. SB0810 would transfer the management of the assets of CompSource Oklahoma to the Teachers’ Retirement System. I have problems with this because it has not been determined that the state even owns these assets. SB0218 is a change to the uninsured motorist law – makes me a little nervous. It is a bill that we will watch very closely. SB0219 will require life insurance policies to be sent by certified mail or require a receipt if the policy is delivered personally to the insured. The title is off of SB0219, SB0397, and SB0810 which means there is still work to do on them – so they will most definitely change at some point.
House Insurance Committee meeting for 2/17/11 was cancelled.
In addition I had a meeting with representatives from Blue Cross, Provident, the Oklahoma Health Insurance Agents, and House Insurance Committee Chairman Charles Key to discuss legislation for the creation of the health insurance exchange. I provided them with copies of the model act that has been drafted by the National Association of Health Underwriters and strongly suggested that Oklahoma use this as its baseline for drafting this legislation. I have also provided copies to Governor Fallin’s office, Commissioner Doak, and the Senate Retirement & Insurance Committee Chair. Oklahoma was one of 7 states awarded a grant this week as an Early Innovator of the federal health insurance law. The grant was awarded to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority in the amount of $54.7 million. My concern is that the insurance industry is a key player in the development of this law rather than the Health Care Authority and to assure agents continue to play a role.
2/16/11 - The 2011 Legislative Session is off and running - we have been actively engaged in a great deal of legislative and regulatory matters over the past several months. Early on in the session it is sometimes difficult to tell which bills we support, which ones we oppose, and which ones we are neutral about because they are amended quite frequently. Sometimes an amendment can make us switch our position. This information is to make you aware of some of the bills we are watching and provide you a general description as to their intent.
2/17/11 - We are watching 21 bills related to health insurance. Several of the bills are issues that will ultimately drive up the cost of health insurance, such as mandates for additional coverage, “any willing provider”, and rate regulation. Of particular note is, SB0960 by Senator Brown (R) from Broken Arrow. It is the legislation that will set the guidelines for the creation of a health insurance exchange. The National Association of Health Underwriters has produced an excellent blueprint for the exchanges that I hope the legislature will utilize as it develops this important legislation.
Back to top
2/17/11 - We are watching 16 bills related to automobile insurance. It is good to note that three of the bills represent “no pay/no play” which was passed two years ago, but vetoed by Governor Henry. HB1045 by Representative Faught (R) from Muskogee authored the bill two years ago and has one of the bills to be considered this session. IIAO will work very hard to pass this proposal. Several bills have been introduced that will roll back the MVR fees from $25 to $10. We will be supportive of these measures as well. HB2080 by Representative Key (R) from OKC would eliminate stacking of uninsured motorist limits. This would be a long shot, but we will certainly be supportive of his efforts. There are several bills that will make tougher penalties for uninsured drivers.
Back to top
2/17/11 - We are watching 20 bills related to workers compensation. They range from moving from our current court system to an administrative system to allowing an employer to opt-out of the current system and make workers compensation insurance optional. There are several bills that would change the makeup of the Workers Compensation Court. Three bills will privatize CompSource Oklahoma – two through a sale and one by mutualization. It is way too early to tell which bills will survive or what they will ultimately look like, but there is a great deal of interest in reforming our current system. Governor Fallin has expressed her interest in true reform. I am very optimistic that this will be a very good year for workers compensation reform.
Back to top
2/17/11 - We are watching 41 bills related to general insurance matters. Several of them (HB1243 and SB407) will change the Continuing Education requirements. We have expressed our concerns in the current law and are pleased to see some interest in addressing our concerns. We have been successful in getting legislation pulled or at least put on hold that would repeal the law that allows insurance companies to use credit information as part of their underwriting and rating for personal lines. IIAO is discussing the problems with Certificates of Insurance and is trying to find a legislative “fix” to the problems agents are having in servicing their clients. Lawsuit reform, like workers compensation, is generating a great deal of interest. These include changing our joint and several liability law and capping non-economic damages. Also, like workers compensation, there will likely be only one bill at the end of the session to change our tort system.
Back to top