GOP Senator has Washington’s Insurance Commissioner in her sights
by John Stang
Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler at a 2009 rally in support of health care reform. Credit: seiuhealthcare775nw/Flickr
A Republican state senator wants to replace the post of State Insurance Commissioner with a board mostly appointed by the Washington Legislature.
Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, introduced the bill Monday, which would eliminate the elected insurance commissioner on Jan.1, 2015, and replace that post with a 10-person board. That board would in turn hire an insurance director to supervise what is now the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
Voter-elected Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who is currently serving his fourth four-year term, contended that an insurance commissioner board would limit the office's public accountability. Currently, insurance companies cannot legally donate to the campaigns of insurance commissioner candidates. The same is not true of the campaigns of caucus leaders.
"If they move to a board, they're really going to turn the insurance office over to the industry," Kriedler said.
Becker, who criticized the commissioner's office for slow approval of insurance carriers under the Affordable Care Act, said she introduced the bill because some people don't believe the insurance commissioner's office is listening to them. A board nominated by legislators, she said, would be more receptive. She had to go into a meeting before she could elaborate.
Kriedler countered that his office handles several types of insurance beyond health insurance, and has a record of saving millions of dollars for insurance consumers. He said Washington is ahead of most states in implementing the Affordable Care Act.
This is the second Senate Republican bill introduced this session that would purge a regulatory entity and replace it with a Legislature-selected board. Last week, Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, submitted a bill that would replace all current members of the Public Disclosure Commission — currently appointed by the Governor — with a four-person Legislature-appointed board. Those four would then select a fifth member.
Under the proposed insurance commissioner bill, the Governor would appoint eight of the ten positions on the Insurance Commissioner board, the nominees for which would be submitted by the state Legislature. Each caucus — the Republican House and Senate caucuses and the Democratic House and Senate caucuses — would submit three nominees (for a total of 12).
Appointees would be required to have a diversity of expertise in insurance administration, marketing, consumer services, actuarial science, economics and financial services. None could be elected officials, public employees or work for entities regulated by the board.
The remaining two board members would be selected by the insurance board itself as chairperson and Director of the State Department of Financial Institutions. Both would be non-voting members.the chairperson could cast a voteif a tie occurs.