Regulatory Impact Statement for the Fifteenth Amendment to 11 NYCRR 216 (Insurance Regulation 64).
1. Statutory authority: Sections 202 and 302 of the Financial Services Law and Sections 301 and 2601 of the Insurance Law. Financial Services Law § 202 grants the Superintendent of Financial Services ("Superintendent") the rights, powers, and duties in connection with financial services and protection in this state, expressed or reasonably implied by the Financial Services Law or any other applicable law of this state. Insurance Law § 301 and Financial Services Law § 302 authorize the Superintendent to prescribe regulations interpreting the provisions of the Insurance Law and to effectuate any power granted to the Superintendent in the Insurance Law. Insurance Law § 2601 prohibits an insurer doing business in New York State from engaging in unfair claims settlement practices, sets forth certain acts that, if committed without just cause and performed with such frequency as to indicate a general business practice, constitute unfair claims settlement practices, and imposes penalties if an insurer engages in these acts. Such practices include "not attempting in good faith to effectuate prompt, fair and equitable settlements of claims submitted in which liability has become reasonably clear" and "compelling policyholders to institute suits to recover amounts due under its policies by offering substantially less than the amounts ultimately recovered in suits brought by them."
2. Legislative objectives: As noted in the Department's statement in support for the bill that added the predecessor section to § 2601, Section 40-d, to the Insurance Law in 1970 (Chapter 296 of the Laws of 1970), an insurance company's obligation to deal fairly with claimants and policyholders in the settlement of claims – indeed, its simple obligation to pay claims at all – was solely a matter of private contract law. That left the Department unable to aid consumers and relegated them solely to the courts. There was a wide variety in insurers' claims practices. Insurance Law § 2601 reflects the Legislature's concerns with insurance claims practices of insurers. In enacting that section, the Legislature authorized the Superintendent to monitor and regulate insurance claims practices.
3. Needs and benefits: On October 26, 2012, in anticipation of extensive power outages, loss of life and property, and ongoing harm to public health and safety expected to result from then-Hurricane Sandy, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued Executive Order 47, declaring a State of Disaster Emergency for all 62 counties within New York State. As anticipated, Storm Sandy struck New York State on October 29, 2012, causing extensive power outages, loss of life and property, and ongoing harm to public health and safety. In addition, a nor'easter struck New York just a week later, adding to the damage and dislocation. Many people still had not had basic services such as electric power restored before the second storm hit.
Insurers insuring property in areas that were hit the hardest by the storms, including Long Island and New York City, have a number of claims left to settle. As a result, a number of homeowners and small business owners have not been able to start to repair or replace their damaged property, or in some cases, complete their repairs. Many small businesses have suffered losses of income that threaten their survival. Fair and prompt settlement of claims is critical for homeowners, many of whom who have been displaced from their homes or who are living in unsafe conditions, and for small businesses, to enable them to return to full operation and to recover their losses caused by the storm. Furthermore, many small businesses provide essential services to and a significant source of employment in the communities in which they are located.
Moreover, there are many insureds who have had their claims denied by their insurers and whose only remaining option is to file a civil suit against their insurers. Lawsuits such as these can often take years to resolve, and homeowners and small businesses can not afford to wait for the resolution of their claims in the courts.
Therefore, this rule creates a mediation program to facilitate the negotiation of certain insurance claims arising in the counties of New York, Bronx, Kings, Richmond, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, and Orange, the areas that suffered the greatest storm damage, between October 26, 2012 and November 15, 2012. An insured may request mediation for a claim for loss or damage to personal or real property (1) that the insurer has denied, (2) for which the insured disputes the insurer's settlement offer if the difference between what the insured seeks and the insurer offers is more than $1,000, or (3) that has not been settled within 45 days after the insurer received all the information the insurer needs to decide the claim. The amendment does not provide for mediation of claims for damage to motor vehicles.
Participation in the mediation program by insureds is voluntary. Participation by insurers in the mediation program is mandatory, except that an insurer is not required to participate in a mediation for any claim involving a dispute in property valuation that has been submitted to an appraisal process or that has become the subject of civil litigation, unless the insurer and insured agree otherwise. An insurer also is not required to mediate any claim for which the insurer has reason to believe or knowledge that a fraudulent insurance transaction has taken place.
4. Costs: This rule does not impose compliance costs on state or local governments. The rule may increase costs for insurers, because they will need to pay the costs of mediation and provide representatives to send to the mediations. However, by providing an alternative to litigation, the insurers should also realize savings from mediations that result in settlements because the cost to mediate a claim is significantly less than the cost to defend against civil litigation brought by insureds. The actual cost effect of the rule is difficult to quantify because it is dependent upon unknown variables such as how many claims will be subject to litigation, how many insureds will select the mediation option, and how many claims that are mediated will be successfully resolved without the insured resorting to litigation. Nothing in this rule requires insurers to reach a settlement in the course of a mediation.
5. Local government mandates: This rule does not impose any requirement upon a city, town, village, school district, or fire district.
6. Paperwork: This rule does not impose any additional paperwork.
7. Duplication: This rule will not duplicate any existing state or federal rule.
8. Alternatives: The Department considered making this rule applicable to the entire state. However, since the major concerns appeared to be localized, the applicability of the amendment is limited to those counties most impacted by the storm. In addition, the Department could have made the rule apply to all claims, even those that had been settled before the effective date of the rule. However, after meeting with industry trade groups and hearing their concerns, the Department modified the rule to make clear that, for claims that had already been made as of the rule's effective date, only those that were denied or unresolved as of the rule's effective date are covered by the rule. The Department also changed the rule so that it applies only to disputes where the parties's positions are $1,000 or more apart.
9. Federal standards: There are no minimum standards of the federal government for the same or similar subject areas. The rule is consistent with federal standards or requirements. The regulation does not apply to claims made under policies issued under the national flood insurance program.
10. Compliance schedule: Insurers will be required to comply with this rule upon the Superintendent's filing the rule with the Secretary of State.
Statement setting forth the basis for the finding that the Fifteenth Amendment to 11 NYCRR 216 (Insurance Regulation 64) will not impose adverse economic impact or compliance requirements on small businesses or local governments.
1. Small businesses: The Department of Financial Services ("Department") finds that this rule will not impose any adverse economic impact on small businesses and will not impose any reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements on small businesses. The basis for this finding is that this rule is directed at insurers authorized to do business in New York State, none of which fall within the definition of a "small business" as found in State Administrative Procedure Act § 102(8). The Department has monitored annual statements and reports on examination of authorized insurers subject to this rule, and believes that none of the insurers falls within the definition of "small business" because no insurer is both independently owned and has fewer than 100 employees.
2. Local governments: The rule does not impose any impact, including any adverse impact, or reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements on any local governments. The basis for this finding is that this rule is directed at authorized insurers, which are not local governments.
Rural Area Flexibility Analysis for the Fifteenth Amendment to 11 NYCRR 216 (Insurance Regulation 64).
1. Types and estimated numbers of rural areas: "Rural areas," as used in State Administrative Procedure Act ("SAPA") § 102(10), means counties within the state having less than 200,000 population, and the municipalities, individuals, institutions, communities, programs and such other entities or resources as are found therein. In counties of 200,000 or greater population, "rural areas" means towns with population densities of 150 persons or less per square mile, and the villages, individuals, institutions, communities, programs and such other entities or resources as are found therein. While insurers affected by this rule may be headquartered in rural areas, the rule itself only applies within the counties of New York, Bronx, Kings, Richmond, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, and Orange. None of these counties is a rural area, and the Department of Financial Services ("Department") does not believe that there are any towns within any of those counties that would be considered to be rural areas within the SAPA definition.
2. Reporting, recordkeeping and other compliance requirements, and professional services: The rule would not impose any additional reporting or recordkeeping requirements. However, the rule would impose other compliance requirements on insurers that may be headquartered in rural areas by requiring insurers to participate in mediation sessions when an insured with a claim subject to the rule requests mediation of his or her claim.
It is unlikely that professional services would be needed in rural areas to comply with this rule.
3. Costs: The rule may result in additional costs to insurers headquartered in rural areas, because they will need to pay the costs of mediation and provide representatives to send to the mediations. However, by providing an alternative to litigation, the insurers may also realize savings from mediations that result in settlements because the cost to mediate a claim is significantly less than the cost to defend against civil litigation brought by insureds. The actual cost effect of the rule is difficult to quantify because it is dependent upon unknown variables such as how many claims will be subject to litigation, how many insureds will select the mediation option, and how many claims that are mediated will be successfully resolved without the insured resorting to litigation. Nothing in this rule requires insurers to reach a settlement in the course of a mediation.
4. Minimizing adverse impact: The Department considered the approaches suggested in SAPA § 202-bb(2) for minimizing adverse economic impacts. Because the public health, safety, or general welfare has been endangered, establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables based upon whether or not the damage occurred in a rural area is not appropriate. However, the rule applies only in the counties of New York, Bronx, Kings, Richmond, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, and Orange, the areas that suffered the greatest storm damage, and thus the impact of the rule on rural areas is minimized, since none of those counties are rural areas.
5. Rural area participation: Public and private interests in rural areas have had a continual opportunity to participate in the rule making process since the first publication of the emergency measure in the State Register on March 13, 2013, which was published again in the State Register on December 4, 2013. The emergency measure also has been posted on the Department's website continually since March 13, 2013.
Statement setting forth the basis for the finding that the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment to 11 NYCRR 216 (Insurance Regulation 64) will not have a substantial adverse impact on jobs and employment opportunities.
The Department of Financial Services does not believe that this rule will have any adverse impact on jobs or employment opportunities, including self-employment opportunities. This rule provides insureds with open or denied claims for loss or damage to personal and real property, except damage to automobiles, arising in New York, Bronx, Kings, Richmond, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, and Orange counties between October 26, 2012 and November 15, 2012, with an option to participate in a mediation program to facilitate the negotiation of their claims with their insurers.