Court Rules CIGA Not a “Primary Plan” Under the MSP

On October 10, 2019, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a landmark decision holding that the California Insurance Guaranty Association (CIGA) was not a primary plan under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP) (CIGA v. Azar, 2019 WL 5076945 (9th Cir., Oct. 10, 2019) (link to 9th Cir. Opinion)). The court’s ruling alleviates CIGA’s responsibility to reimburse the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for conditional payments made on behalf of workers’ compensation claimants and may also obviate its need to adhere to Medicare Set-Asides for claim settlements.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by CIGA seeking to curtail conditional payment reimbursement requests from CMS that were unrelated to covered claims. CIGA asked the court for a declaratory judgment holding that 1) CIGA is not a primary plan under the MSP, 2) that CMS must adhere to the claims bar date, and 3) that CMS’s all-or-nothing billing practice is improper and must not continue. The district court found in favor of CMS on the first two issues but agreed that CMS should only seek reimbursement for conditional payments from CIGA where the diagnostic code related to a covered claim. The parties cross-appealed.

The 9th Circuit focused exclusively on the preeminent issue; whether CIGA was a primary plan under the MSP. Like the district court, the 9th Circuit examined the issue in terms of federal preemption. The court began by reviewing the MSP to determine whether CIGA could be deemed a primary plan. While MSP does not define “primary plan”, it provides examples, such as state workers’ compensation acts. The court found that CIGA shares little with state workers’ compensation laws. While it may pay workers’ compensation claims, CIGA is triggered by an insolvency, not a work-related injury. Further, the California insurance laws specifically define CIGA’s as insolvency insurance. The court cited numerous examples of CIGA being deemed an “insurer of last resort”; a term antithetical to being a primary plan.

Finding that CIGA could not be deemed a primary plan under the MSP, the court turned its attention to whether Congress intended the MSP to preempt state laws governing insurer solvency. Congressional intent is derived from the statutory language and surrounding framework. Nothing in the MSP expressly related to insurer solvency. The closest indication the court could find was that the MSP supersedes state law with respect to Medicare Advantage plans under Part C and prescription drug plans under Part D, but that Congress clarified that those provisions did not apply to state laws relating to plan solvency. Thus, the 9th Circuit reversed.

What happens next is still an open question. CMS has until November 24, 2019 to seek an en banc appeal (review by the full 9th Circuit panel of judges) and until January 8, 2020 to file a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. It also has the option of amending the MSP to expressly apply to guaranty funds. Until then, this ruling is good law in the 9th Circuit and persuasive elsewhere. The application of the ruling to other guaranty funds requires a state-by-state analysis, though there is benefit to be gained from coordination. The NCIGF Legal Committee will be working with members to ensure the most effective response.

If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to John Blatt (jblatt@ncigf.org).

Company Restructuring Statutes Gain Steam in the States- NCIGF Adopts Policy Position

Restructuring statutes, which take the form of either company division statutes or insurance business transfers (IBTs), are gaining steam in the state legislatures. These are statutes that permit an ongoing insurance company to divest itself of certain liabilities, along with a calculated amount of assets, and relinquish any ongoing responsibility for this business. The business divested would be put into an existing or newly created insurance company. The statutes proposed typically call for a plan to be filed with and approved by the state’s commissioner of insurance. Sometimes review and approval by the court is also required.  Requirements for notice to policyholders vary from state to state. The most current proposals do not limit lines of business that can be subject to divisions. Hence, types of insurance such as personal lines, workers compensation and long- term care could be involved.

At its October 2019 meeting, the NCIGF Board of Directors adopted a policy position on restructuring mechanisms. While the NCIGF takes no position on this or any other company business practice, it is concerned with the continued protection of covered policyholders and claimants in the event of insolvency. NCIGF public policy is focused on preserving guaranty fund (GF) coverage for policies and claimants where there has been a division or an IBT:

  • Where there was guaranty fund coverage before the division or IBT, state regulators should ensure that there is coverage after the division or IBT. A division or IBT should not reduce, eliminate or in any way impact GF coverage.
  • Where there was no coverage before the division or IBT, there should be no coverage after the transactions are completed. A division or IBT should not create, expand, or in any way impact GF coverage.
  • Guaranty fund representatives are a good resource for any guaranty fund coverage issues that arise in evaluating these transactions.

NCIGF’s complete position statement can be viewed here. Roger Schmelzer, NCIGF’s President and CEO states “our organization is focused on protecting the policyholders the guaranty fund system is intended to protect. Our position on restructuring mechanisms reflects this primary concern. Some state guaranty funds may have varying views on these statutes. In any case, we hope that regulators considering these transactions will keep the guaranty funds informed and make use of their expertise in the area of insurance insolvency.”

Background and recent developments. This concept began to take shape many years ago when Rhode Island adopted Chapter 14.5 of its insurance code known as “Voluntary Restructuring of Solvent Insurers.” The mechanism was narrowly crafted and applies to “insuring of any line(s) of business other than life, workers’ compensation, and personal lines insurance.” (See RI Statute s. 27-14.5-1(6)).

Pennsylvania also had a related law (PA Bus Corp. Law § 1951 (repealed)) that provided for division of a solvent company. The statute was used most notably in 1996 by Cigna to divide the business of its Insurance Company of North America (“INA”) unit. The newly formed entity, known as Brandywine, assumed certain run‐off blocks of business while INA continued to write new business. The law has since been repealed and replaced with the more generalized Associations Transaction Act (15 Pa.C.S.A. § 361) though its application to insurance policyholders is unclear.

In 2014, Vermont passed its Legacy Insurance Management Act (LIMA). According to the RunOff Re.Solve website (runoffresolve.com), LIMA allows a non-admitted insurer to transfer its discontinued commercial business to a third‐party company. Such a transfer would require approval from the Vermont regulator, but the law does not mandate court approval. Personal lines coverages are excluded, and policyholders can opt out of the transfer process. (See VT ST T. 8 § 7111 et seq.)

Arizona also has a business transfer law. (See AZ ST § 20-736)

Most recently, a number of division statutes have been proposed and adopted in the following states, including the following:

Connecticut: Division statute enacted in 2017

Georgia: Division statute enacted in 2018.

Illinois: Division statute enacted in 2018.

Iowa: Division statute enacted in 2019.

Oklahoma: IBT statute enacted in 2018.

Michigan: Division statute enacted in 2018

Nebraska: Proposal introduced in 2019.  Did not progress.

Again, these most recent proposals are not limited to certain lines of business nor is policyholder approval required. Whether there is guaranty fund coverage for the assuming entity is also an issue of concern.

 

For additional details on division statutes please go to https://www.ncigf.org/industry/public-policy-and-legislation/.

Louisiana Now Twelfth State to Amend Large Deductible Liquidation Act

On June 4 Louisiana adopted legislation to define how large deductible policies are handled in an insurance liquidation. The new law tracks closely to model language adopted by NCIGF and reflects the NCIGF position that deductible collections and other recoveries are to be remitted at 100% to the guaranty funds to the extent of their claim payments.

In the context of this legislation “large deductible” policies are:

  • Workers compensation policies in which the insurer agrees to pay the claims from dollar one.
  • However, through policy endorsement, the policyholder is obligated to reimburse the insurance company up to a certain specified amount – usually upwards of $100,000. (Sometimes through special arrangement with the insurance company the policyholder pays the deductible amount in the first instance – however the insurance company always has the ultimate responsibility to pay the claim.)
  • These mechanisms allow the policyholder to save on premium and at the same time protect the injured worker.
  • Any collection issues are addressed between the policyholder and the insurance company, but the worker gets needed benefits on a timely basis. Typically, the policyholder obligation to repay is secured by collateral furnished by that policyholder.

Confusion often ensues if the insurance company goes into liquidation and an insurance guaranty fund assumes the obligations of the insolvent insurer for workers compensation cases. Statutes such as the new Louisiana law settle various issues such as 1) who is responsible for collection of the large deductible recoveries, 2) how collateral put in place to secure these obligations should be administered post-liquidation, and 3) does the recovery become a general asset of the now insolvent estate or is it remitted to the guaranty fund paying the claim to the extent of that claim payment?

According to Roger Schmelzer, NCIGF President and CEO, “these issues are important to the guaranty funds for several reasons:  1)  Any confusion about the status of the various parties, such as the policyholder, the claimant, the receiver and the guaranty fund, can result in collection delays and litigation – both of which diminish available funds to reimburse the deductibles; 2) guaranty funds are a limited safety net – ultimately the cost of the guaranty fund payments is passed on to the public by various recoupment methods – having the structure in place to reimburse guaranty funds quickly on deductible payments reduces the cost to the public, and, importantly, bolsters the ability of the guaranty funds to provide seamless protection to injured workers.”

The new Louisiana law addresses all these issues and will do much to eliminate confusion and delay in future Louisiana insurance insolvencies. It’s essential elements are:

  • It calls for the receiver to assume collection efforts.
  • The receiver administers the collateral, draws down on the collateral should the policyholder fail to pay within a certain time frame, and eventually returns any excess collateral to the policyholder.
  • Guaranty funds receive reimbursement in full for their claim payments out of the deductible collections or collateral draw downs. (More information on this rather complex statutory scheme, and other similar laws, can be obtained by review of the new law available https://www.ncigf.org/industry/public-policy-and-legislation/.)

The other states that have adopted similar statutory changes are California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Texas, New Jersey, Utah, Florida, Missouri, and West Virginia. Most follow some version of the template of the NCIGF model which has been revised over the years to reflect experience in dealing with these products in an insolvency context. The first state to enact the bill was Pennsylvania during the aftermath of the Reliance insolvency. Reliance was liquidated in 2001 and the legislation was added in 2004.

Special appreciation to John Wells, Executive Director of the Louisiana fund. John was instrumental in vetting this bill with state policymakers. 

NCIGF Reps Meet with Members of Congress

Recently, a number of NCIGF members, board members and staff took Capitol Hill by storm to do some updating on the state guaranty fund system. Meetings like these are critical, especially after an election year that saw a shift in power in the House of Representatives and the election of 100 new members of Congress, many of whom are without a background in financial services. Here are a few quick takes from the day:

  • 16 total meetings; 15 of which were with members of the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees.
  • Cross-section of senior members and freshman members, including:
    • Senate Banking Committee Chairman, Mike Crapo
    • Housing, Community Development, and Insurance Subcommittee Chairman, Lacy Clay
    • Housing, Community Development, and Insurance Ranking Member, Sean Duffy
    • 4 House Financial Services Committee freshmen
  • Overarching theme in the meetings was support for the state system.
  • Members and staff expressed appreciation for NCIGF’s engagement.

Many thanks to those who participated, along with John Blatt, Amy Clark and me (from NCIGF staff): Chad Anderson (WGFS), Charlie Breitstadt (Nationwide), Allan Patek (WI), Barbara Law (GFMS), Barry Miller (DE), Brad Roeber (CA) and Frank Knighton (GA). I feel confident we are off to a good start with this Congress. We’ve invested large amounts of resources, especially since the financial crisis, to assure federal lawmakers that the state-based safety net is prepared to protect consumers. Now is not the time to let up.

Company Division Statutes Gain Steam in the States

Company Division Statutes, also known as restructuring statutes or business transfer mechanisms, are gaining steam in the state legislatures. These are statutes that permit an ongoing insurance company to divest itself of certain liabilities, along with a calculated amount of assets, and relinquish any ongoing responsibility for this business. The business divested would be put into an existing or newly created insurance company.   The statutes proposed typically call for a plan to be filed with and approved by the state’s commissioner of insurance.  Sometimes review and approval by the court is also required.  Requirements for notice to policyholders vary from state to state.  The most current proposals do not limit lines of business that can be subject to divisions.  Hence, types of insurance such as personal lines, workers compensation and long- term care could be involved.

This concept began to take shape many years ago when Rhode Island adopted Chapter 14.5 of its insurance code known as “Voluntary Restructuring of Solvent Insurers.”  The mechanism was narrowly crafted and applies to “insuring of any line(s) of business other than life, workers’ compensation, and personal lines insurance.”  (See RI Statute s. 27-14.5-1(6)).

Pennsylvania also had a related law (PA Bus Corp. Law § 1951 (repealed)) that provided for division of a solvent company. The statute was used most notably in 1996 by Cigna to divide the business of its Insurance Company of North America (“INA”) unit.  The newly formed entity, known as Brandywine, assumed certain run‐off blocks of business while INA continued to write new business. The law has since been repealed and replaced with the more generalized Associations Transaction Act (15 Pa.C.S.A. § 361) though its application to insurance policyholders is unclear.

In 2014, Vermont passed its Legacy Insurance Management Act (LIMA). According to the RunOff Re.Solve website (runoffresolve.com), LIMA allows a non-admitted insurer to transfer its discontinued commercial business to a third‐party company.  Such a division would require approval from the Vermont regulator, but the law does not mandate court approval. Personal lines coverages are excluded and policyholders can opt out of the transfer process.

Most recently, a litany of division statutes have been proposed in the following states and have progressed in the 2017 and 2018 sessions.  The current status of the proposals in these states is as follows:

Connecticut:  Division statute enacted in 2017

Georgia: Passed both houses and recently vetoed by the governor.

Illinois:  Division statute enacted in 2018.

Iowa: “Study” bill floated in 2018.

Oklahoma:  Division statute enacted May 2018.

Michigan:  Enacted in late 2018

Nebraska:  Proposal introduced in 2019

Again, these most recent proposals are not limited to certain lines of business nor is policyholder approval required. Whether there is guaranty fund coverage for the divided entity is also an issue of concern.  The NCIGF will be monitoring the issue closely and providing updates as things develop.

For additional details on division statutes please go to https://www.ncigf.org/library/ and search for “division.”

NCIGF Sees Progress at NAIC on LD and Troubled Co Regulation

NCIGF closed out 2018 on a very high note.  Regulators adopted very positive recommendations governing large deductible insolvencies, including that states be encouraged to adopt statutes that grant the receiver the authority to collect deductible recoveries.  If no statute is in place receivers are encouraged to execute an agreement with the guaranty funds to enable this process.  The Working Group noted that two large deductible model statutes are available – the NAIC and the NCIGF versions. 

While the issue is not quite wrapped up (NCIGF will be involved in continued discussions regarding the ultimate ownership of the deductible asset and the drafting of specific language for the Receivers Handbook) this progress is attributable the hard work of a number of our members.

Likewise, financial regulators invited NCIGF and NOLHGA to comment on the NAIC Troubled Company Handbook.  Our comments were supportive (and included some fine-tuning based on member liquidation experience) because the proposed revisions to the Handbook would improve guidance to regulators on issues NCIGF members have found especially challenging:

  • early communication with guaranty funds and pre-liquidation planning,
  • regulator attention to the condition and availability of digital data in a troubled company,
  • info on service arrangements (TPAs and MGAs),
  • gathering information on the type and location of collateral, such as that intended to secure large deductible obligations  

Especially impressive is the attention given to the importance of digital data in contemporary insolvencies.  There now appears to be universal agreement that this is a very critical element to a successful liquidation process and key to the collaboration between guaranty funds and receivers.

To be successful, NCIGF served as the “trusted expert” and the definitive source of information on insurance insolvency and its consequences.   As a result, we have enjoyed great cooperation from regulators on these issues, both of which matter to on a daily basis to NCIGF members and the policyholders you serve.  We will build on these developments in the coming year!

NAIC Chief Endorses Web of Trust

I recently received a report from an international insurance regulatory meeting in which U.S. insurance commissioners were participating.  The urgency and assertiveness of our regulators hit me like a ton of bricks.

NAIC president, Eric Cioppa—the Maine director of insurance– opined that cybersecurity regulation cannot be prescriptive, but instead must be principles based because it is too hard for the supervisors to keep pace with industry.  First, cybersecurity engagement must come from the very top of the company.  A culture that prioritizes cybersecurity is critical due to the weakest link phenomenon.  Second, an insurer must focus on total preparedness for when a breach occurs.  Without engaging in table topping, a breach could be devastating to the company.  The supervisors are not looking to second guess a company’s program, but are trying to focus on broad cybersecurity themes.

As we continue to push forward in implementing the Web of Trust, it’s not for nothing to understand how U.S. regulators are approaching the same problems at an industry level and to recognize that it’s not all that different from the work we have been doing and are prepared to do more of.  Given that our members’ claims-paying function is an extension of the insurance industry, what regulators think on the topic should very much matter to us. 

In my view the reasoning transfers to NCIGF’s role in making certain that our members are at the most effective level of cyber security; f regulators can require carriers to “open their kimonos” as part of their consumer protection mission when a company is in business, we should be doing the same on security, also for the purpose of protecting policyholders and claimants. Our goals are even more narrow than the regulator’s.

Beyond the cybersecurity piece, the report should provide a flavor for the scope of discussions at the IAIS and the active role U.S. regulators are playing in it.  This is a global version of the NAIC (and as Keith Bell reminds us, the NAIC actually created the IAIS).  I point this out because while some of our colleagues continue to digest the “international” aspect of insurance regulation and its application to the U.S., this report gives a tiny peek into its tangibility, importance and durability.