Lawmaker: Connecticut Commissioner Should Be Elected Position

By | March 19, 2010

A Connecticut State Senator thinks things have become too chummy between the state’s insurers and the commissioner of the state’s insurance department. To fix it, he says he would like to make the commissioner’s office an elected position.

Senator Edward Meyer (D-Guilford) says he has been making the rounds in Hartford – also known as the Insurance City – over the last several weeks, talking with the attorney general’s office as well as Democratic party leadership in the state, weighing whether there is enough support to make the change. If there is, Meyer says he would like to introduce legislation some time this year to do so.

If it were to pass, Connecticut would become the only New England State with an elected commissioner. Among other states, elected insurance chiefs are rare: Currently 11 states elect commissioners.

The impetus for the change, Meyer said, is a sizable increase in health care premiums, all of which have been approved by Commissioner Thomas Sullivan. But Meyer also questions a number of other decisions made by Sullivan and his department over the last several years. Among them: major rate hikes in medical malpractice premiums, approval of a requirement for coastal homeowners to install hurricane shutters and even the departments allowing Travelers to cancel policies for homeowners with certain types of dogs.

“An elected commissioner who would have to campaign for the spot would be more accountable,” Meyer said. Sullivan “comes right out of the insurance industry and appears to be a representative of the insurance industry and not” citizens in the state… He is an arm of the insurance industry.” Electing a commissioner would ensure the independence of the office, Meyer said.

It’s an accusation that has a unique reverberation in Connecticut, where the insurance industry is a major employer. It’s headquarters for The Hartford, the property/casualty division for Travelers, Aetna and a substantial portion of Cigna’s corporate offices, to name a few.

Sullivan was a long-time executive at The Hartford before becoming insurance commissioner.

In response to Meyer’s accusations, Sullivan in statement said that “rate review is serious business at the insurance department and we thoroughly review each filing while adhering to the actuarial standards of practice. We are regulators and have a multi-layered mission that prevents us from making decisions without actuarial evidence and data to support that decision.”

Sullivan also said that he supports “increased transparency, and we are currently collaborating with the proponents of legislation to increase transparency and public participation into our process while preserving the actuarial standards of practice.”

Listen to the audio interview with Edward Meyer.

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