Regulators want to privatize licensing Applications in Md. would be processed by Pa. firm

March 14, 1996|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,SUN STAFF

Maryland insurance regulators plan to farm out the task of processing license applications for insurance agents to a private company, saying the state's process had become hopelessly backlogged and often led to lengthy delays.

The state Board of Public Works has approved a five-year, $8.5 million contract to transfer the work to a Pennsylvania firm that says it can cut the time for processing an agent or broker's license to three days from six weeks.

But the contract depends on the General Assembly's passage of legislation to give the executive branch authority to give the work to a contractor.

"Since state government is in a downsizing mode, it was very unlikely we could have gone to the governor and said we need $4 million [for new computers and software] and 25 new people," said Ken Smith, the Maryland Insurance Administration's director of finance.

Mr. Smith said a staff of six or seven state workers now performs an almost entirely manual process for giving examinations and processing license applications for agents and brokers.

The crush is at its worst in odd-numbered years, when all 65,000 licenses in Maryland come up for renewal.

"The industry came to us over a year ago and said, 'It's getting to the point where it's affecting our business,' " Mr. Smith said. "They asked if there was anything we could do about it."

The job would be handed over to Assessments Systems Inc. of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., which Mr. Smith said was the only company to bid on the entire contract. Another company bid only on the portion of the contract that covers administering the licensing examinations.

Mr. Smith said ASII does similar work in Colorado and Georgia.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening hailed the deal as consistent with his effort to make government more responsive to business interests, especially when state-imposed barriers are based on administrative problems rather than policy differences.

"When we are competitive in technology, it translates directly into jobs," the governor said in a statement.

Pub Date: 3/14/96

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