New York State
Insurance Department


ISSUED: 1/16/2001

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SUPERINTENDENT DECLARES 2000 A MILESTONE YEAR FOR DEPARTMENT
Cites National and State Accomplishments

             Superintendent of Insurance Neil D. Levin today heralded the Department’s efforts in the year 2000 and declared it a breakthrough year.

            "The year 2000 brought many tangible results and I look forward, under Governor Pataki’s leadership, to continue building on the foundation that we have created over the past three and a half years," said Levin. "The Department has led the nation in its groundbreaking privacy regulation, implementation of a health insurance plan for small businesses and working uninsured, and roll-out of speed–to-market procedures that streamline approval processes and offer New Yorkers more consumer choice. In addition, MetLife, the Department’s largest domestic company, achieved conversion approval in record time. The Department also boasts a record year in the number of arrests and convictions for insurance fraud, a continued crackdown on prompt pay violations that has tangibly decreased the number of complaints, significant results under the landmark external review law, privatization of the State’s Medical Malpractice Insurance pool, and a comprehensive investigation into the past practices of race-based underwriting."

            "The passage of Gramm-Leach-Bliley resulted in fundamental change to the financial services industry," said Levin. "The Department’s privacy regulation ensures that appropriate protections are in place as New York leads the way in implementing the law and shaping insurance regulation in this new era of financial regulation." Regulation169, issued in November of 2000, afforded New York State insurance consumers the strongest privacy protections ever provided with respect to their nonpublic personal financial and health information.

            The Healthy NY insurance program, signed into law by Governor George E. Pataki under the Health Care Reform Act of 2000, was executed throughout the year and has began accepting enrollees as of January 1, 2001. The program is the first the nation targeted at small businesses and to utilize subsidized stop loss funds. "The Healthy NY program will give hundreds-of-thousands of New York's hard working families the affordable, comprehensive insurance coverage they need," said Levin.

            In December of 2000, the Department adopted codification of statutory accounting principles allowing for enhanced consistency and comparability, as well as producing a comprehensive guide for regulators, insurers, and auditors. New procedures expediting the review process for product filing made with the Department were introduced in August as a part of the overall initiative to reform the insurance regulatory process in New York. The "speed to market" project introduced "fast track" procedures to get innovative financial services products to the marketplace in a more timely manner and cut approval times from months to weeks.

            The demutualization of Metropolitan Life Insurance was undertaken largely to position the company to continue to serve its policyholders by competing effectively in the newly-integrated financial services marketplace. The Department processed MetLife’s demutualization application on a timely basis and enabled the largest ever demutualization to occur on schedule. The reorganization has enabled MetLife to acquire a bank and execute, at last, on its long-held plans to better serve its customers by becoming a true full-service financial services company providing insurance, asset management, securities and retail banking services under one roof.

            The Department’s Fraud unit reports a record high of 503 arrests and 318 convictions protecting New York’s honest paying consumers from the adverse financial impact of insurance fraud. Governor Pataki’s 1997 Prompt-Pay legislation was proven effective when complaints reached a record low in 2000 showing a 22% decrease over 1999. Under the landmark External Review Law 500 consumers received the medical treatments by challenging health plan’s decisions and obtaining an independent review. "Our priority as insurance regulators is to protect consumers in New York State and after one year it is evident that the External Review Law is working to accomplish this goal," said Levin.

            The Department also took substantial steps toward completing the privatization of the State’s Medical Malpractice Insurance Association (MMIA) moving risks where they belong, in the voluntary market. The MMIA ceased issuing or renewing medical malpractice insurance policies, a private pool was created to accept risk on new and renewal business, and remaining liabilities were transferred to a private insurer.

            The Department also began an important investigation into the insidious practice of race-based underwriting. A comprehensive reporting procedure was put into place for all life insurers that write in the state, requiring that all relevant documents be submitted to the Department. "The practice of race-based underwriting shocks the conscience. A comprehensive investigation is currently ongoing and information will be released and appropriate action taken for any violations of the law which are identified," said Levin.

            "The Department saw the opportunities and addressed the challenges. I am excited about the future of the Department and the insurance industry that we supervise," added Levin.

            Further information is available Insurance Department's website at www.ins.state.ny.us.


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