Federal regulations of insurance are few and far between thanks to ages of history affirming that insurance regulation belongs to the states. But each session, intrepid Congresspeople submit aspirational bills to do just that. Let’s take a look at some of the proposed bills and sort through what matters and what is just big talk but small game.
According to Congress.gov, in the 117th Congress, we’ve had more than 1,500 bills introduced in the Senate or House of Representatives that affect insurance regulation, either directly through regulating things like health insurance or the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), or indirectly such as proposals to give tax credits to homeowners or businesses that purchase certain insurance coverage.
But, if only 4 percent of bills will ever become law, then a whole lot of those bills are just noise (or grandstanding, or signaling, or whatever you’d like to call it because who doesn’t like a good potshot at Congress).
By the numbers – insurance legislation
- 894 insurance-adjacent bills have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this session
- 610 have been introduced in the U.S. Senate
- 12 bills have been enacted either in their original form or through incorporation into other larger bills
- To give you an idea just how many bills make it all the way to law status: 1504 have been introduced
- 137 are in committee consideration
- 83 made it to floor consideration
- 78 have passed one chamber
- 17 have passed both chambers
- 8 are undergoing resolution
- 13 made it to the president’s desk to get the Pinocchio glow up and become Real Laws
While it’s evident that not every bill that gets introduced will make it into the legal framework of the country, the sheer volume of insurance-adjacent legal considerations should re-impress on any industry brains how important and pervasive insurance is.
Which U.S. insurance bills have become law in the 2021-2022 Congressional session?
For the 177th Congress, many laws passed in 2021 have already gone into effect, or will become effective soon, so we rounded up the insurance-involved pieces and what they did:
- Technical correction to the ALS Disability Insurance Access Act of 2019 did exactly what its name says by providing technical corrections to the ALS Disability Insurance Access Act of 2019
- Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2021 extended the authority of dental insurance plans and extends temporary payment expansions for medical travel needs for veterans
- Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act temporarily extended funding for programs such as the National Flood Insurance Program and Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, as well as Medicare funds
- American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 extended unemployment insurance funds, children’s health insurance funds, and funds to maintain homeowner’s insurance for property owners and renters, among other things (and yes, for the sake of brevity, “other things” is covering … a lot)
- PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act establishing a pilot program for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide veterans with PTSD access to service dogs for therapy, as well as access to veterinary insurance benefits for their service dogs
- Protecting Moms Who Served Act of 2021 provided supplemental funding for care and research of veterans who have children, both before, during, and after pregnancy and delivery, and necessarily calls for coordination with private insurers to gather data
- Prevent across-the-board direct spending cuts twiddled with funding periods to … prevent across-the-board direct spending cuts, including to health insurance and other insurance-related programs
- Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was huge – in 1039 pages it laid out funding for various programs and mandated certain studies and reports and hit on when the cost of insurance should be included in reporting, or when it should be excluded from added on costs for programs; it set standards for automobiles and, by extension, their insurers; it included a proof of insurance mandate for public transportation emergency grants; it funded the National Flood Insurance Fund; and it gave states direction on what to do with unused unemployment insurance funds (again, this one is a lot)
- National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 at 910 pages, from insurance exemptions for classified projects to covering health care for enlistees’ dependents, you better believe national defense funding intersects with insurance
- Further Extending Government Funding Act passed in late 2021, this act extended federal funding of or authority of several departments and agencies including some Medicare improvement funding through Feb. 18, 2022, but without Congress having to all agree on a complete budget
- Further Additional Extending Government Funding Act, which passed on Feb. 7, 2022, did something a lot like the Further Extending Government Funding Act, but extended it additionally (Medicare improvement funding was again part of the kick-the-can legal procedure)
- Protecting Medicare and American Farmers from Sequester Cuts Act once again extended funding for programs like Medicare improvements and rural medical access and we can only guess that the name change was to avoid calling it the “Further Continued Additional Extending Government Funding Act”
- Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, which was signed into law March 15, 2022, and provides funding for insurance programs like the NFIP, as well as aid to Ukraine
In addition to these laws, there are two concurrent resolutions adopted by both the House and Senate, which means something both agree on and don’t need presidential approval, but they aren’t laws and don’t have any enforcement power. Basically, the two concurrent resolutions are hypothetical agreements on budget levels for the government through 2030 and 2031. But, again, something something don’t have any enforcement power.
Other topics to watch
While we can’t predict with any certainty which laws will make it and which are hopelessly doomed, it’s worth keeping in mind the topics that are top-of-mind for Congress and the nation, and how the insurance landscape may be affected by changes.
Flood and catastrophic insurance and climate change
There is a federal interest in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), so it’s no surprise that there’s a major push to keep the program solvent and provide clarity to participants. More than 110 bills specifically reference the NFIP, so there’s a nonzero chance we’ll see more changes to the program.
With the rise of concerns and activity around climate change, the pressure is doubly on for the NFIP and other catastrophe insurances that are experiencing more pressure every year from events like wildfires.
Health insurance and the Affordable Care Act
The federal government waded into health insurance regulation with the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, also known as Obamacare. Tweaks to the ACA are commonly proposed, such as reforms that attempt to stop surprise billing from out-of-network providers that insureds didn’t realize were out of network (e.g., you went to the emergency room at an in-network hospital, and one of the attending doctors was actually a contractor with an out-of-network firm so, surprise! Your bill is huge!). Additionally, Medicare and its coverage for drugs and services are constantly undergoing revisions as new products reach the market and baby boomers enroll.
Federal interest in veteran access to medical care is also driving policy proposals, and, as we saw in the legislation that actually passed so far in the 2021-2022 session, innovations to help veterans access care – be it through Tricare or private insurers – have broader support than other measures.
Current events and federal insurance regulation
Cybercrime: As events in Ukraine and Russia heat up, Russian hackers have taken a battering ram to corporate and government tech infrastructures. Even before the conflict, there was federal interest in pre-empting cyberattacks, but now cyberinsurance and cybersecurity are taking on higher legislative priority.
Pandemic: There are more than a few bills aiming at helping businesses and ensuring public health or preventing health care discrimination based on vaccine status … regardless of political outlook, it’s undeniable coronavirus will continue to shape both insurance and federal regulations.
Inequality: While growing economic inequality was already a concern in America, the pandemic and other recent events have accelerated both the inequality and the concern about it. Different factions of Congress have numerous insurance-adjacent approaches to helping those struggling to find housing and childcare, but no word yet on whether enough voting members can set aside their differences to actually get people help.
The majority of these bills will never become law, and the federal government represents only a small fraction of the regulations you may have to follow. So, while you can’t ignore Congress (would that we could) entirely, it’s more important to keep your eye on your local jurisdictions and state government.
We can’t do anything about Congress, but we can help carriers, agencies, and managing general agencies and underwriters comply with relevant state insurance producer license and compliance regulations. Check out how with an AgentSync demo today.