Committee unjustified in its review of NLRB

Our country is founded on a principle that democracy functions best when the coercive power of the state is kept in check. But something has gone very wrong with the check that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), is levying against the National Labor Relations Board (“Newspapers: Rep. Issa right to subpoena documents in NLRB Boeing case,” Aug. 11).

Congressional review of agency decision-making is properly exercised by going through the bicameral lawmaking process and presenting a bill to the president for signature or veto, and by engaging in routine oversight through hearings and reports. To subpoena documents in an active case before an independent agency merely because some members of the House committee disagree with the NLRB’s decision to issue a complaint against Boeing is an abuse of power. This is especially true when the agency’s act is well-grounded in legal precedent, as it is in the case against Boeing.

If the facts alleged are true, Boeing violated the law. But even if the committee had a good reason to subpoena those documents — which it does not — its actions would be unjustified. The committee has presented no reason for needing agency documents related to ongoing litigation against Boeing — other than the political one of interfering with an agency that is congressionally mandated to balance the power between everyday working people and Big Business.

From Anne Marie Lofaso, professor at West Virginia University College of Law, Morgantown, W.Va.

Insurance regulations need uniformity in US

I read with interest The Hill’s article “State regulators want ‘level playing field’ for national plans” (Aug. 15). The merits of healthcare reform aside, the article speaks to a much greater underlying issue: The existing insurance regulatory system is outdated, complex and hurting American consumers. 

Insurance regulation in the United States is made up of more than 50 different state-based insurance jurisdictions, each with its own procedures, regulations and legal definitions of insurance. The lack of uniformity requires insurers to comply with a different set of requirements in each state or territory where they do business, ultimately driving up costs for consumers.

In the piece, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners — a defender of the existing regulatory system — takes issue with the requirement that two multistate healthcare plans must be offered in every state’s healthcare exchange. The group argues that “if the standards imposed on Multi-State Plans are less stringent than those imposed upon others, Multi-State Plans will benefit from an advantage and will draw business away from those plans that are subject to state laws.”

As a former state insurance commissioner, I share the group’s concern for adequate regulation that protects consumers and fair competition. I also recognize that the real competitive advantage of multistate plans is not less-stringent standards or the fact that multistate plans are sanctioned by the federal government. Rather, the advantage is the result of uniform standards that allow providers to eliminate the bureaucratic costs of complying with more than 50 different regulatory systems and provide insurance to consumers at more competitive prices.

Part of the NAIC’s role is to protect the existing state-based system. But if the goal of reforming insurance (health, property and casualty, life, etc.) is to encourage competition and provide more choice and cheaper alternatives for consumers, we should start by recognizing that the existing regulatory system is inefficient and embrace policies that encourage effective uniform standards.

From Robert Wooley, former insurance commissioner at the Louisiana Department of Insurance, Washington 

Community was hurting before Hurricane Irene 

For a day or two, the nation’s eyes were transfixed on a bale of hay being swept down the streets of Windham, N.Y., by the raging tides of Irene. But in this attention-deficit society, our gaze will be easily diverted to the next disaster, natural or celebrity. Click, click. But what of the people of this small village, or the countless other communities devastated in the hurricane’s wake? How do they move on?

I was born and raised in Greene County, N.Y., and lived there for almost 30 years. And while it is heartening to see the national media swarming and giving coverage, the truth is that the area has been economically depressed for many years, which is why it pains me to hear that the feds are “reluctant” to spend anything on disaster relief without offsetting it with cuts. The Northern Catskills need to be rebuilt, and revived. It is long overdue. Ironically, Irene has presented an opportunity to do just that — stimulate the local economy and create jobs.

There is a tourist spot in Windham called Point Lookout, from which you can see five states. While it appears no one, including the residents, thought it necessary to “look out” for more than the power going out, now that the worst has occurred, we need to “look out” for them.

From Karen Ann DeLuca, Alexandria, Va.