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Covering insurance: Resources and sources

U.S. Naval Station Norfolk warehouse fire

Firefighters work to put out a warehouse fire at Naval Station Norfolk. Photo: Brien Aho

The good news about the insurance beat is that there are many sources of information among regulators, industry groups, consumer groups, ratings agencies, researchers and trade publications.

You don’t have to decipher rate filings or market-conduct exams alone. However, be aware of the biases that each party might bring to bear on an issue and seek multiple interpretations on contentious topics. Here are some of those sources, including contact information for many:

REGULATORY

  • National Association of Insurance Commissioners, nonprofit organization of state insurance regulators. Acts as a national repository of state insurance financial filings, publishes detailed industry statistics, and with input from those regulated, drafts model laws and regulations. State regulators and staff constitute myriad task forces and work groups with NAIC staff assistance, marked by quarterly meetings and monthly dial-in “chorus calls.” Public access sites provide basic insurance financial status and complaint reports and pay-for-view detailed financial reports. Media may have access to documents, reports and chorus calls. Some NAIC meetings remain closed. Executive director Terri Vaughan, 202-471-3990. State commissioners take turns on board. Communications division 816-783.8909 and news@naic.org.
  • National Council of Insurance Legislators, nonprofit policy group through which state legislators on insurance-related committees draft model legislation, take positions on national policy. Executive director Susan Nolan, 518-687-0178 or by info@ncoil.org; Washington office 202-220-3014

STATE REGULATORS

Consult the NAIC jurisdiction map. Common online and/or electronic services to seek out: rate filings, policy and exposure data, financial and market-conduct exams, consumer complaints, policy-form changes, rate-comparison charts.

STATE CONSUMER ADVOCATES

  • Michigan Automobile and Home Insurance Consumer Advocate, Melvin Butch Hollowell 517-241-2983
Filling sandbags

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, residents prepared for June 2008 flooding. Photo: Don Becker, USGS

CONSUMER

  • Center for Economic Justice, Texas-based organization focused on serving minority and low-income consumers on issues of insurance, credit, utilities and other economic products. Birny Birnbaum, executive director,  512‐912‐1327.
  • Consumer Watchdog, California-based consumer-protection organization formed in 1985 by Proposition 103 author Harvey Rosenfield. Specializes in medical insurance, managed care and malpractice issues. President Jamie Court; Executive Director Douglas Heller. Contact: 310-392-0522. Office also in D.C.

STATE-BASED CONSUMER GROUPS

  • Board member Barbara Yondorf (NAIC consumer representative) 303-329-7912, or byondorf@gmail.com.

INDUSTRY GROUPS

  • America’s Health Insurance Plans (Health Insurance Association of America), national trade association representing the health insurance industry. Vice President of Communications Susan Pisano and Press Secretary Robert Zirkelbach, 202-778-3200, or Press@ahip.org.
  • Insurance Information Institute, insurance industry-funded organization produces white papers on issues and publications, as well as a media guide. The III also privately drafts talking points and strategy plans for the industry. President Robert Hartwig. On Twitter @iiiorg. National press office in New York, Loretta Worters  212- 346-5500 or media@iii.org. Florida media contact Lynne McChristian at 813-480-6446 or at lynnem@iii.org; Regional media contact Bill Davis by cell 770-331-9279 or at billjoe@bellsouth.net.
  • Insurance Services Office, trade bureau through which insurance companies share claims and loss data, which ISO uses to create actuarial-rating tables for use in rate filings, policy forms and underwriting guidelines. Also a source of statistics, research and analysis about the insurance industry. Assistant Vice President for Financial Analysis Michael R. Murray, 210-469-2339; Outside media handled by MMM Group’s Susan Kenney and Jessica Riccardi, 201-507-9500 or skenney@mww.com or jriccardi@mww.com.
  • National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos., based in Indiana, represents policyholder-owned mutuals such as State Farm. State media contact Lisa Floreancig in Indianapolis at 317-875-5250 or federal media contact Matt Brady in Washington 202-628-1558.
  • National Insurance Crime Bureau, trade bureau through which insurance companies file and investigate suspected cases of insurance fraud. Supported by nearly 1,100 property and casualty insurers and self-insured organizations. Director of Public Affairs Frank Scafidi, 916-979-1510 or fscafidi@nicb.org.
  • Risk and Insurance Management Society, daily risk, insurance and benefits news, searchable databases, legislative updates, professional advancement, student center, public record searches for risk managers.  Based in New York, 212-286-9292.
  • Reinsurance Association of America, trade and advocacy organization for reinsurers and brokers that underwrite the insurance risks in the United States. International membership includes Munich Re of Germany and Renaissance Re of Bermuda. General media inquiries: Barbara Carroll, 202-783-8390 or  carroll@reinsurance.org.

  • Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, represents reinsurers and insurers based in Bermuda but mostly doing business in the United States. New York contact Brad Kading, president and executive director, 202-783-2434. Shares New York address of Reinsurance Association of America.

RATINGS AGENCIES

  • A.M. Best Co., provides easy access to look up the financial rating of insurers, get basic information on the company, and most importantly, find the rating analyst who knows the inside scoop. Media contact Jim Peavy, 908-439-2200, ext. 5644, or james.peavy@ambest.com.

AGENTS

RESEARCH

  • Brenda J. Cude, consumer representative on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, University of Georgia, 706-542-4857.
  • Sabrina Corlette, research professor at Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, 202-687-0880 or sc732@georgetown.edu.
  • Peter Kochenburger, executive director of the Insurance Law Center, University of Connecticut School of Law; former counsel for Travelers Insurance. 860-570-5177 or peter.kochenburger@law.uconn.edu.
  • Stacey Pogue, senior policy analyst, Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, Texas. 512-320-0222, ext. 117, or pogue@cppp.org.

READINGS

Quarterly earnings calls:

Retrieve free transcripts of earnings phone calls among company executives and industry analysts at SeekingAlpha.com/tag/transcripts. Its homepage is also a good general business news aggregation site; check out the Market Currents blog. Also try Morningstar.com/earnings. Earnings-call transcripts not available for free through Google searches can usually be found at a charge at ALACRA.com.

Trade and business publications:

  • InsuranceJournal.com, industry trade journal provides daily and weekly email feeds by topic and region of interest.
  • InsuranceHeadlines.com, offers RSS feeds and daily and weekly email newsletters of core areas of interest (auto, home, life, financial services).
  • Advisen, offers a free daily digest of top insurance and reinsurance market news stories, including some sponsored content. A Twitter feed also is available.

About the Author

Paige St. John currently works as an investigative reporter for the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune, specializing in property insurance, hurricane coverage and state politics, along with whatever disasters are thrown Florida's way. She is a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and awards from Scripps Howard, Green Eyeshade, National Headliner and SABEW.

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