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Legislature will review any new health rules from insurance commissioner

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler at a 2009 rally in support of health care reform. Credit: seiuhealthcare775nw/Flickr

 If Washington's insurance commissioner wants to create new health insurance regulations, he will have to run them by a pair of legislative committees first.

Washington's Senate passed 35-14 Tuesday a heavily changed bill that would require the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to run any new health insurance rules by the health care committees of the House and Senate. If either of those committees objects to the proposed regulation, an administrative procedure would resolve the conflict.

This requirement does not apply to new regulations for other types of insurance. The bill now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee.

The bill has bounced back and forth between the House and Senate. It is what is left of a bill that originally called for abolishing the elected position of insurance commissioner, and replacing that person with a legislatively nominated board to supervise all insurance matters in the state. Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville and chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, introduced the original bill.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler opposed the original bill, contending that a board would limit the office's accountability to the public. Insurance companies cannot legally donate to the campaigns of insurance commissioner candidates, but there is no such rule about the campaigns of Washington state legislators who would appoint the board. Kreidler also argued that the elected insurance commissioner is directly accountable to the public. He is serving his fourth term as insurance commissioner.

On Tuesday, his office issued a short statement saying it has no problems with the revised bill approved Tuesday.

For exclusive coverage of the state government, check out Crosscut's Under the Dome page.

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