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Agents Press Lawmakers on Issues.

Independent agents descend on Capitol Hill to make pitch; bill would close tax advantage; life insurers happy pension reform is moving ahead.

Armed with instructions and motivation, about 800 independent insurance agents went to Capitol Hill to let members of Congress know how they feel on some of the legislative issues facing their profession.

The agents came from all over the United States for the Independent Insurance Agents of America's 25th Legislative Conference May 2 to 4 at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, and for two days they were lobbyists, educators and advocates during personal visits with members of the House and Senate, telling Congress what affects their business and how.

"This is grass roots to the max. It reverberates for months after you leave," IIAA's new chief executive officer, Robert A. Rusbuldt, told his charges. "It has an incredible lasting effect."

If agents didn't know before making the trip that preserving state regulation of insurance is their top concern, they know it now.

Repeal of estate taxes, financial-services privacy, agent-licensing reform, natural disaster insurance and a patients' bill of rights are also high on the list.

"We think state regulation has to be fine-tuned, not gutted," Rusbuldt said at a legislative briefing session, where agents were given the issues, told why they were so important and even given "talking points" for discussion with their elected officials.

IIAA leadership told the troops to tell Congress how they support the tax-cut proposals of President Bush, including repeal of estate, or "death," taxes, and how liability exposure contained in the health-care reform/ patients' bill of rights legislation in the House and Senate hurts agents in two ways.

Language in the patients' rights bills that would allow patients to sue health insurers for denied or delayed coverage can also involve agents, either as sellers of the policies or as employers, said Maria L. Berthoud, IIAA's vice president of federal government affairs.

Insurers Praise Bill That Addresses Tax Advantage

The Bermuda Triangle not only sucks up boats and planes but U.S. tax dollars as well, says a U.S. congresswoman who has co-sponsored new legislation to close a so-called "tax loophole" benefiting offshore insurers.

The Reinsurance Tax Equity Act of 2001, sponsored by Reps. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) and Richard Neal (D-Mass.) would amend a part of the U.S. tax code they say favors U.S. operation of companies based in offshore "tax havens," to the disadvantage of U.S. property/casualty insurance companies.

Members of the Coalition for Tax Fairness, a group of property/casualty insurers that seek closure of the sup posed tax advantage, are American Financial Group Inc., Chubb Corp., Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Kemper Insurance Cos., Liberty Mutual Group and PMA Capital.

Bermuda-based Trenwick Group Ltd. wouldn't be affected by the proposed legislation, said James Billett Jr., chairman, president and chief executive officer of the company. "We do not have any such reinsurance arrangements in place and we don't contemplate any such arrangements," Billett said. "If it doesn't affect us, but has a negative effect on others, I assume it would be positive for us."

The bill would affect companies like Ace and XL, said Ira Zuckerman, an equity analyst with Nutmeg Securities. "This is the Chubb/Hartford relief bill...it's an old bill, but whether it will go through or not, I can't say. You combine insurance and taxes to most congressmen and their eyes glaze over twice," Zuckerman said.

Bermuda-based Ace Ltd. called the bill a "protectionist measure cloaked under the moniker of tax fairness," in a statement.

"The Johnson/Neal bill is the third in a string of increasingly harsh proposals advanced by a handful of U.S. companies, all of which violate the letter and spirit of U.S. international trade and tax policies and could have severe consequences globally on U.S. industries and trade relations," the Ace statement reads in part.

Last year, Johnson and Neal introduced similar legislation, which wasn't voted upon by Congress.

Ace said it hopes this bill faces the same fate.

The intent of the new legislation remains the same--to tax investment income produced from reserves reinsured offshore--but it would change the tax code by deferring the deduction for reinsurance premiums until the loss is paid, rather than taxing the income.

Life Insurers Cheer House Passage of Pension Reform

The life insurance industry is celebrating a pension reform bill that sailed through the U.S. House of Representatives and hopes the bill will find the same support in the Senate and White House.

"We are thrilled," said Melissa Kahn, a vice president at MetLife. "We think this is a great step in the process. This will help expand coverage to smaller employers who haven't been able to offer retirement plans to employees. It will boost retirement savings."

H.R. 10, the Comprehensive Retirement Security and Pension Reform Act of 2001, was approved 407-24 on May 2.
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Title Annotation:insurance legislation
Comment:Agents Press Lawmakers on Issues.(insurance legislation)
Author:Green, Meg
Publication:Best's Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2001
Words:818
Previous Article:Corrections.
Next Article:New RIMS Executive Council Will Focus on Education.
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