This post is part of a series sponsored by AgentSync.
Federal insurance rules are few and far between due to ages of history confirming that insurance regulation belongs to the states. But every session, shameless congressmen put forward ambitious bills to do just that. Let’s take a look at some of the proposed bills and sort through what’s important and what’s just big talk but small game.
According to Congress.gov, during the 117th Congress, we have had more than 1,500 bills introduced in the Senate or House of Representatives that affect insurance regulation, either directly by regulating things like health insurance or the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), or indirectly as proposals. to provide tax relief to homeowners or companies that purchase certain insurance coverage.
But if only 4 percent of the bills will ever become law, then a lot of those bills are just noise (or stands, or signaling, or whatever you want to call it for who does not like a good potshot at Congress).
With the numbers – insurance legislation
- 894 bills that connect to insurance have been introduced in the US House of Representatives this session
- 610 have been introduced in the US Senate
- 12 bills have been adopted either in their original form or by incorporation into other major bills
- To give you an idea of how many bills reach all the way to legal status: 1504 has been introduced
- 137 is being considered by committee
- 83 came to the floor
- 78 have passed a chamber
- 17 have passed both chambers
- 8 undergoes dissolution
- 13 came to the president’s desk to make Pinocchio light up and become real laws
While it is clear that not every bill introduced will fall within the country’s legal framework, the sheer volume of legal considerations adjacent to insurance should re-impress all industry insiders on the importance of comprehensive insurance.
Which US insurance bills have become law during the congressional meeting 2021-2022?
For the 177th Congress, many laws passed in 2021 have already come into force, or will come into force soon, so we gathered the pieces of insurance involved and what they did:
- Technical correction of the ALS Disability Insurance Access Act from 2019 did exactly what its name says by providing technical corrections to the ALS Disability Insurance Access Act from 2019
- The Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2021 extended the jurisdiction of dental insurance plans and extends temporary payment extensions for veteran medical travel needs
- By extending government funding and delivering the Emergency Aid Act, funding was temporarily extended for programs such as the National Flood Insurance Program and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, as well as Medicare funds.
- The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 expanded unemployment insurance funds, children’s health insurance funds and funds to maintain homeowners’ insurance for property owners and tenants, among other things (and yes, for the sake of brevity, “other things” cover … a lot)
- PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act which establishes a pilot program for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to give veterans with PTSD access to service dogs for therapy, as well as access to veterinary insurance benefits for their service dogs
- The Protecting Moms Who Served Act of 2021 provided additional funding for the care and research of veterans who have children, both before, during and after pregnancy and childbirth, and necessarily requires coordination with private insurance companies to collect data
- Prevent overall direct spending cuts mixed with funding periods to… prevent direct spending cuts across the board, including health insurance and other insurance-related programs
- The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was huge – on 1039 pages it outsourced funding for various programs and mandated certain studies and reports and turned on when the cost of insurance should be included in the reporting, or when it should be excluded from additional costs for programs; it set standards for cars and, by extension, their insurance companies; it included proof of insurance mandate for public transport emergency allowance; the National Flood Insurance Fund; and it gave states instructions on what to do with unused unemployment funds (again, this is a lot)
- The National Defense Authorization Act for the financial year 2022 in 910 pages, from insurance exemptions for classified projects to cover health care for relatives of recruits, it is better to believe that national defense financing crosses insurance
- Further extension of the Government Financing Act passed in late 2021, this law extended federal funding by or authority for several departments and agencies including some Medicare improvement funding through February 18, 2022, but without Congress all having to agree on a full budget
- Additional law on additional extension of state funding, adopted on February 7, 2022, did much the same as the law on further extension of state funding, but extended it further (funds to improve Medicare were again part of the legal process that can be used i kick-the-can)
- Protecting Medicare and American Farmers from the Sequester Cuts Act once again increased funding for programs such as Medicare improvements and medical access in rural areas, and we can only guess that the name change was to avoid calling it “The Continuation of Further Extension of the State Funding Act”
- Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, which was signed into law March 15, 2022, and provides funding for insurance programs such as NFIP, as well as support for Ukraine
In addition to these laws, there are two simultaneous resolutions adopted by both the House and the Senate, which means that something both agrees on and does not need the approval of the President, but they are not laws and have no executive power. Basically, the two simultaneous resolutions are hypothetical agreements on budget levels for the government until 2030 and 2031. But, again, something that has no executive power.
Other topics to look at
While we can not predict with certainty which laws will do so and which are hopelessly doomed, it is worth remembering the topics that are top-of-mind for Congress and the nation, and how the insurance landscape can be affected by change.
Flood and disaster insurance and climate change
There is a federal interest in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), so it’s no surprise that there is a large effort to keep the program solvent and provide clarity to participants. More than 110 bills specifically refer to NFIP, so there is a non-zero chance that we will see more changes in the program.
With increasing concern and activity about climate change, the pressure is double on NFIP and other disaster insurance companies, which are exposed to more pressure every year from events such as forest fires.
Health Insurance and Affordable Care Act
The federal government waded into health insurance regulation with the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, also known as Obamacare. Adjustments to the ACA are often suggested, such as reforms that try to stop surprising billing from out-of-network providers that the insured did not realize was out-of-network (e.g., you went to the emergency room at a hospital in the network, and one of the treating physicians was actually a contractor with a company outside the network, so surprise! Your invoice is huge!). In addition, Medicare and its drug and services coverage are constantly being revised as new products hit the market and baby boomers sign up.
Federal interest in veteran access to medical care also drives policy proposals, and, as we saw in legislation actually enacted so far during the 2021-2022 session, has innovations to help veterans access care – whether through Tricare or private insurance companies – has wider support than other measures.
Current events and federal insurance regulation
Cybercrime: When the events in Ukraine and Russia are heating up, Russian hackers have taken a beating to corporate and state technical infrastructures. Even before the conflict, there was a federal interest in preventing cyber attacks, but now cyber insurance and cyber security are given higher legislative priority.
Pandemic: There are more than a few bills aimed at helping companies and ensuring public health or preventing discrimination in health care based on vaccine status … regardless of political point of view, it is undeniable that the coronavirus will continue to shape both insurance and federal regulations.
Inequality: Although growing economic inequality was already a problem in America, the pandemic and other recent events have accelerated both inequality and concern about it. Various factions of Congress have many insurance-based approaches to help those struggling to find housing and child care, but there are still no words on whether enough eligible members can put their differences aside to actually get people’s help.
The majority of these bills will never become law, and the federal government represents only a small fraction of the rules you may need to follow. So even if you can not ignore Congress (if we could) completely, it is more important to keep an eye on your local jurisdictions and government agencies.
We can do nothing for Congress, but we can help carriers, agencies, and insurance agencies and insurers comply with the licenses and compliance regulations of relevant government insurers. Check out how about an AgentSync demo today.
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