R.I. Bill Would Create New Insurance Commissioner Post

April 7, 2004

Rhode Island may have a different look in insurance regulation if several lawmakers have their way.

Reps. Joanne Giannini, Arhur Handy, Charlene Lima, Peter Petrarca and Peter Wasylyk want the state to create a new executive level Department of Insurance Commissioner to replace the current insurance unit within the Department of Business Regulation. The new post of insurance commissioner would be filled through an unorthodox nominating process.

The governor with the consent of the state senate would appoint the new insurance commissioner. The appointment would be made from a list of at least three candidates selected by a special committee.

This committee would consist of a physician from the Rhode Island Medical Society; an AFL-CIO representative; a consumer advocate chosen by the governor; a representative from the board of nursing; the director of health; a representative from the business community chosen by the governor; a member of the state trial lawyers association; a representative from the Hospital Association of Rhode Island and the director of business regulation.

Noticeably absent from the nominating committee: any representatives from insurers or the insurance agent ranks.

The new insurance commissioner would serve for a term of five years and may be reappointed. Anyone serving as commissioner would be barred from working in the insurance industry for at least two years after departing office.

The Independent Insurance Agents of Rhode Island opposes the plan.

“First, DBR has been responsive to our association’s needs and we see no reason to change that,” says a message on the group’s web site.
“Second, if momentum pushes this bill further, it would be inappropriate to establish a Department of Insurance Commissioner without representation on the selection committee from the Independent Insurance Agents of R.I., the R.I. Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and one or more representatives from the insurance companies.”

The bill (H8185; S2660) was field with the Corporations Committee but as not yet received a hearing.

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