Texas Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman could have trouble winning Senate confirmation to keep her job, as Democrats with enough votes to defeat her nomination question her credentials.
Kitzman was appointed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2011 between legislative sessions. She faces a formal confirmation process starting with the Senate’s Nominations Committee next month, before a vote of the full Senate in which she will need two-thirds support.
Several Democrats have questioned her leadership and her past ties to the insurance industry, the Austin American-Statesman reported. At least one Republican, Sen. Bob Deuell of Greenville, suggested that Kitzman “has ignored a lot of rules.”
“I don’t think the votes are there to confirm her,” Deuell said.
Kitzman told the newspaper she wanted to talk to each senator and correct any misconceptions, though she didn’t specify what those were.
“I’m aware there are some members that have a view about certain things.” Kitzman said. “And some of those views may be pretty entrenched. Others are, I think, based on – let’s say – less than the whole story on some things. And I just want to give them an opportunity to, like I say, have complete information and make an informed decision.”
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said Kitzman has “serious problems” and accuses her of not protecting consumers enough. Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, wrote a letter earlier this year criticizing Kitzman for removing a rule that she said would require insurers to warn patients in advance about added out-of-pocket expenses related to services provided out of network.
State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, accused Kitzman of being beholden to consultants, as fees paid to a New York-based firm have passed $1.5 million.
“I just think you’ve kind of, really lost control,” Whitmire told Kitzman at a Senate Finance Committee hearing earlier this month. “Or maybe you’re very much in control of the use of consultants.”
Kitzman denies any bias toward the insurance industry.
“If you look at everything that has been done, you can’t say that there’s any evidence that I made a decision because I have some relationship with or bias toward the industry,” she told the newspaper. “That’s not how I do things.”
Kitzman isn’t without allies, according to the newspaper’s report. Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas, said most people in the insurance industry generally think Kitzman is doing a good job, deserving credit for facing TWIA customers, for putting prosecutors in Harris and Bexar counties to investigate insurance fraud and for organizing a conference on hail last year.