Lawmaker Suggests Electing Insurance Chief
January 19, 2011 by N/A
January 18, 2011 | McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
|Source:||McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Jan. 18–HARTFORD — It wouldn’t happen for four more years, but a state representative has proposing making the state insurance commissioner an elected position, similar to the state’s constitutional officers.
The position has always been an appointment made by the governor, but controversy over the last commissioner, Thomas Sullivan , who resigned in November to work for Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP, prompted the proposal by Rep. Andrew Fleischmann , DWest Hartford.
Sullivan, a longtime executive at The Hartford, approved increases for individual-market plans for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in September, without a public hearing, that ranged from 19 to 47 percent, including hikes of 30 to 44 percent for one of its most popular plans. This affected consumers who bought insurance after health care reform went into effect in March that mandated new coverage.
The most recent increase request by Anthem for an average 20 percent increase for individual-market plans that were “grandfathered” from new mandates was rejected by acting Insurance Commissioner Barbara Spear in December and Anthem did not appeal it.
“Connecticut’s residents are entitled to an insurance commissioner who will clearly represent them and their interests — not the insurance industry,” said Fleischmann. “People are paying higher and higher premiums, the big insurance companies are recording record profits, and our insurance commissioners, who have had the power to reject proposed premium increases, have rarely done a thing.”
Colleen Flanagan , spokeswoman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy , said he would not favor such a change.
F l e i s c h m a n n ‘ s p r o p o s a l would make the insurance commissioner an elected position at the same time as the next gubernatorial election. Fleischmann said other states have elected commissioners, including California and Washington.
“Right now, the commissioner does not have to answer to anyone — not to the consumers and small-business owners who are forced to pay these outrageous premiums or go without health insurance. We would see a lot more transparency and sensible decision making if, every four years, the commissioner was held accountable by Connecticut’s citizens,” Fleischmann said.
In 2009, Fleischmann sponsored a bill requiring insurance companies that deny patients health care coverage to supply contact information for the Office of Health Care Advocate and to let them know that they have the right to appeal a denial of coverage.
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