Springfield, MO

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Letter to the Editor: New NAIC rules will harm Missouri’s seniors

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Dear editor,

One of Missouri’s seniors’ top economic concerns is how difficult it is to retire – and plan to retire – in this state.

Planning for the future is distressing for Missouri’s workers, many of whom perceive retirement to be a far-off dream, if not an impossibility. It’s no surprise as to why. Prices in this state continue rising while wages remain stagnant, according to the Missouri Budget Project. Our health care system is one of the worst in the country, according to a ranking from U.S. News & World Report, and the lack of a sufficient safety net on the local, state and federal levels means that medical bills can lead to a lifetime of debt.

For many Missourians, annuities offered by life insurance are a central part of their financial planning and, in some cases, the only option for financial security in their retirement years. Unfortunately, however, that financial security is now under direct attack from some of this country’s largest, most predatory insurance companies. Through lobbying the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the group that effectively sets federal insurance policies, these large companies are working to convince Chlora Lindley-Myers, the NAIC’s president and the director of Missouri’s Department of Insurance, to pass new regulations on their smaller competitors, which would line their pockets at Missouri workers, families and retirees’ expense.

A group of these large life insurers recently sent a letter to the NAIC asking for a 50% increase in cash requirements for certain life insurers backed by private investments. This penalty isn’t designed to protect the average Jane and Joe on Main Street. It was carefully crafted in a way that would lead to these predatory conglomerates bankrupting their competitors so they can gobble up even more of the industry’s market share.

Missourians planning for the future need as many options as possible, but these penalties are designed to shut down competition, take away choices and drive up costs, all for the benefit of the big insurance companies. In the state’s current miserable retirement environment, implementing this new regulation would be the equivalent of kicking Missouri’s seniors when they’re already down.

The good news, however, is that Lindley-Myers can stop this corporate giveaway that would make the hole currently burning through many Missouri’s seniors’ pockets even larger.

When the NAIC adopts new rules, state insurance commissioners take them back to their states to implement them. So, as the top insurance regulator for Missouri, Lindley-Myers can reject any rules the NAIC attempts to force upon us – including this one.

Lindley-Myers has a strong record of standing up for consumers, particularly communities of color, so there’s reason for optimism that she is already aware of just how harmful the big insurance companies’ scheme would be if implemented. She knows that Black Americans have only a fraction of the life insurance coverage that white Americans have, according to Haven Life, and that taking away options – particularly affordable ones – would only widen this gap.

Anyone chasing the dream of retirement security needs as much certainty, reliability and affordability as they can get. That’s why it’s so critical that Lindley-Myers stand up for what’s right rather than what’s easy by saying no to this crony corporate giveaway. It’s what the people of this state need and deserve.

—Mark Comfort, political activist based in St. Louis


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