Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler won nearly six in 10 votes in his re-election bid, giving him bragging rights as the U.S.’s longest currently serving insurance commissioner.
Kreidler won 57.7 percent of the vote, while insurance broker John Adams, his Republican challenger, garnered 42.3 percent of the votes.
The Democrat now entering his fourth term said that over the next four years Washington’s insurance community and its consumers can expect his top priorities to include implementing the Affordable Care Act, tackling climate change and doing battle with not-for-profit health insurers that he says have built up excessive surpluses.
“Right now my No. 1 priority is the implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” Kreidler said. “That’s my principal focus and that’s the biggest challenge that we face. And there are plenty of challenges that are part of that implementation. That’s going to really take a lot of energy from my office and from me personally.”
He restated his loud and continued support for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as some have called it, and said that he believes the voters’ desire for changing the nation’s healthcare system was revealed in their reelection of President Barack Obama.
“I’m a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act, and I obviously feel that by virtue of President Obama being reelected it’s a vindication of the work we’ve been doing here to implement the Affordable Care Act and I think it also is ratification that there really aren’t any alternatives to the Affordable Act care out there,” he said.
Reflecting on the presidential election race, he said, “I think that Obama’s reelection in fact was in part was a vindication of what was his major issue that he had put forward successfully during his first term as president of the United States.”
Another healthcare area will also be taking Kreidler’s time and attention, as he lobbies state legislature for the authority to do battle with not-for-profit health insurers that he says have built up “surpluses on top of reserves” that are seeking large rate increases.
“Those have grown dramatically in the last decade,” Kredier said. “Two of our carriers have surpluses in excess of a billion dollars. And I’d like to be able to take that into account when rate filings are submitted so we can make sure that they don’t continue to grow, that’s it’s used to make sure that premiums stay as low as we possibly can. We want to see them hold surpluses, but this whole idea of continuing to see them grow at the same time they’re asking for double-digit rate increases is unacceptable.”
He continued, “Eleven other states have the authority to look at surplus when they are doing rate review, and I’d like to have that same authority.”
Climate change will also be at the center of Kreidler’s attention over the next few years, he said. In September Kreidler was among those who endorsed a report that urged the insurance industry to act to protect itself and the community against the increasing frequency of extreme weather due to climate change.
The report, “Stormy Future for U.S. Property/Casualty Insurers: The Growing Costs and Risks of Extreme Weather Events,” was authored by Ceres, the nonprofit that advocates for environmental leadership. The report builds on this summer’s devastating drought and record high temperatures and notes that extreme weather events pose a great risk to U.S. property/casualty insurers, which were hard hit by last year’s $32 billion in insured losses.
Following the report Kreidler called for improving the forecasting and modeling by the insurance industry, as well as making some of that now proprietary information available to the public. He also said the insurance industry must look at improving land use practices and creating stricter building codes because of the changing climate and the threat that it represents to the industry.
“I see it as a real threat to the industry, and I want to make sure that the industry we regulate is adapting to climate (change) in a positive way so that they (don’t) get blindsided or caught off guard or more importantly that we don’t see insurance companies pulling out of markets or raising rates to the point where they’re unaffordable to people that need the insurance,” he said.
He said he would also like to see the industry become an advocate of fighting climate change by coming up with products that encourage motorists to drive fewer miles and builders to construct greener developments, products he believes should become standards. Products, he said, that would be akin to what the seatbelt did for the auto industry.