Montana Securities and Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen urges Montana Congressional Delegation to capitalize on states’ strengths

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Regulatory and Health Care Reform Must Tap State Expertise

HELENA, Mont. – The state-based insurance regulatory system has been a constant in an otherwise erratic economic climate. That was the key message conveyed this week when Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica Lindeen visited members of Congress to highlight the part of the regulatory system that has consistently worked.

During the congressional meetings, Lindeen stressed that reforms must provide consumers with the time-tested protections of the national system of state insurance oversight.

“The American people want more financial stability, not less,” said Lindeen. “Reform proposals must ensure consumers have accountable and local regulators who can provide continued stability despite these challenging economic times. As Montana’s regulator, my agency works hard every day to make sure that insurers honor their promises to policyholders in Montana.”

Commissioner Lindeen said the Washington visits were designed to ensure careful consideration of reforms to the nation’s financial services regulatory structure.

“As Congress works to address the current financial turmoil, we want to make sure the comprehensive national system already in place – the existing state-based insurance regulatory system – is given full consideration and review,” said Commissioner Lindeen

Commissioner Lindeen noted that, as a whole, the business of insurance has not posed systemic risk to the nation’s economy, instead providing a source of relative calm in an otherwise turbulent time. State insurance solvency oversight has kept insurance companies stable and protected policyholders from the worst of the financial meltdown, and state regulators continue to provide a local response to consumer issues at no cost to federal taxpayers.

“While we agree that reforms are needed, we believe that federal and state regulators should work together in a way that continues to protect consumers and promote financial stability. There are areas in which we might need federal assistance, but that assistance should streamline the strong state-based regulatory framework – not supplant it with a new federal bureaucracy,” Lindeen said.

Commissioner Lindeen said she also shares with Senators Baucus and Tester a strong belief in the importance of Montana’s input in health care reform and substantial experience and expertise of the states in the crafting of federal legislation.

Lindeen, who serves on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Health Insurance and Managed Care Committee, also arranged for the committee to meet with Senator Baucus to discuss his health care reform proposal.

“Montana already has many patient protections, solvency standards and fraud prevention programs in place that should not be preempted by the federal government,” said Lindeen. “We encourage the development of broad standards rather than prescriptive rules wherever possible to maximize state flexibility to implement reforms in a manner that is responsive to local and regional market conditions. States must be allowed to go beyond the minimum standards to protect consumers.”