Pennsylvania Ponders Election for Insurance Commissioner

By | March 8, 2011

A bill that would make the Pennsylvania insurance commissioner an elected position has been introduced in the state’s House of Representatives.

Legislation sponsored by Rep Neal Goodman, a Democrat from Mahanoy City, would change the insurance commissioner’s job from an appointed position. Goodman’s proposal limits an elected commissioner to holding no more than two consecutive, four-year terms. It also prevents a commissioner from holding a position with an insurance company within four years of leaving office.

“I strongly believe that because of the important responsibilities and duties given to the insurance commissioner, the citizens of Pennsylvania should ultimately choose who is placed in this position,” Goodman said in a legislative memorandum about the proposal.

The legislation, House bill 941, is a slightly modified version of a similar bill introduced during the previous legislative session. The bill — along with a resolution requiring the legislative budget and finance committee to study the financial impact of electing a commissioner — have been referred the insurance committee.

Pennsylvania is not the only state where lawmakers are weighing whether to make the commissioner an elected position.

In nearby Connecticut — where former Commissioner Thomas Sullivan was heavily criticized for approving significant health insurance rate hikes — legislation has also been introduced to make the commissioner’s job an elected one. The proposal, by Rep. Andrew Fleischman, a Democrat from West Hartford, was introduced in late January. Last March, Connecticut State Sen. Edward Meyer (D-Guilford) spoke with Insurance Journal about the reasoning behind calls for a switch in the Nutmeg State.

Only 11 states elect their commissioners. In most cases, chief insurance regulators are appointed either directly by a state’s governor or group controlled by a governor.

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