Any business, agency or individual that has a state insurance license needs a national producer number. Like a Social Security number for individuals, the NPN is a unique identifier in the insurance world. You can look up NPNs in the National Insurance Producer Registry's (NIPR) online registry.
Who Has an NPN?
In the words of the NIPR, anyone engaged in "insurance related activities regulated by a state insurance department" needs an NPN. That includes, but isn't limited to:
- Insurance adjusters. These are the professionals who evaluate insurance claims and how much of the claim is justified.
- Insurance navigators. These are the professionals who help individuals and employers evaluate their insurance options in the Affordable Care Act marketplace.
- Insurance producers. These are the businesses and individuals who are licensed to sell, negotiate or solicit insurance. This includes not only making an outright sales pitch but explaining a client's insurance options or discussing how age, health and other risks affect premiums.
Every licensed, regulated insurance professional needs an NPN. Usually, it's assigned as part of the licensing process.
State Insurance Licensing
Insurance licensing operates at the state level. If someone in, say, Texas, wants information about a licensed insurer, they can go to the Texas Department of Insurance and use the TDI agent lookup page.
If they have the name of the individual or agency, they can use the search engine for insurance license lookup or find an individual by the license number. A licensed producer can look up how long they have before they renew their license.
Why the NPN is National
Licensing state by state has its limits. If someone racks up a string of violations in Colorado then starts over with a new license in North Carolina, the Colorado issues could slip through the cracks. Neither insurance officials nor customers might know about it.
The NPN allows the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to track information about producers, negotiators, adjusters and other licensed professionals on a national basis. If someone applies for a license in New Jersey, for example, the insurance commissioner can enter them in the national producer number database. That will turn up any previous licensed activity.
Likewise, individuals looking to buy insurance can use the NPN to gather more information about the person or business they're dealing with.
NPN vs. License Number
For an agent or adjuster working in only one state, their state license is more important than their national producer number. Some licensed insurance professionals don't even know their NPN. If they need to provide it to someone, they can look it up in the database.
Some states make it simpler. In 2017, Arizona changed all its license numbers to match the licensees' NPNs. It's possible, eventually, that all states will do the same.
Finding an NPN
If you live in a state that works like Arizona, you can find the NPN easily. Enter the business or individual's number in the Department of Insurance's search page and you'll get back the license. That equals the national producer number.
For other states, you can go to the NIPR search page. There are three ways to search for an NPN:
- Enter the producer's last name and Social Security number.
- Enter their state and state license number.
- Enter their EIN. This is an employer identification number for businesses.
Whichever method you use, if the information you enter is accurate, you'll get back an NPN.
If you're looking for complaints on an agency's record, you may be able to find that information without the NPN. The NAIC maintains a national database of complaints. All you need is the company's name. Enter it, and NAIC lists any complaints.