California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones: Year One Report Card

By | January 23, 2012

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones marked his first full year in office last week by looking back on his and the California Department of Insurance’s accomplishments during 2011.

“A little over a year ago, I took my oath as insurance commissioner and pledged to make my administration one of action,” the former Democratic state legislator said in a statement he released this week celebrating the completion of his first year in office. “I can confidently and proudly say that the department has fully lived up to that pledge. We have achieved a number of critical successes on behalf of California’s consumers consistent with our vision to be the most effective consumer protection agency in the nation.”

Have Jones’ office lived up to that pledge? Is Jones an effective insurance commissioner for both the public and the industry? Here’s your chance to answer and make yourself heard. Take Insurance Journal’s poll on Jones, and help us create an industry report card for Jones and his staff.

The reviews on Jones from the industry are mixed, and many insurance associations and executives shy away from discussing the state’s top insurance decision maker in a candid light.

Some in the industry say Jones has been highly focused on healthcare reform, but that he has done little in areas like property/casualty so far. Though there are some expectations that Jones this year will expand his interest beyond healthcare—for better or worse.

“The first year has been focused almost exclusively health insurance,” said Association of California Insurance Companies President Mark Sektnan. However, Sektnan said ACIC has worked well with Jones, and says the commisioner and his staff have communicated effectively and openly with him and his staff.

Others have complained of a lack of communication and openness from Jones and his staff, and there have been complaints that Jones caters too much to consumer advocates, such as Santa Monica, Calif.-based Consumer Watchdog, which is working to qualify a bill for the 2012 California ballot that would bring prior approval to health care.

“I would assume Consumer Watchdog has a pretty strong relationship with him,” Sektnan said, adding that “we also have a pretty good relationship with him.”

Steve Young, general counsel with IBA West, said the position of insurance commissioner, because it’s an elected one, is one that often tends to indulge to consumer groups like Consumer Watchdog.

“I think a lot of commissioners have viewed them as someone to sort of cater too,” Young said. “I haven’t seen any evidence to see that (Jones caters to them) any more or any less than any other commissioner.

In fact, Young added, “I think Jones has been a pretty formidable commissioner so far, and I think he has the potential to be an effective commissioner for a bunch of reasons.”

Several associations and insurance executives interviewed asked not to go on the record with their thoughts on Jones, however some of those same people complained that when Jones took office the long-standing agent and broker task force was disbanded. The group had conducted regular meetings with insurance commissioners to discuss industry issues and air out grievances.

The loss of that group may have added to a growing, though not very far from muted, reverberation about Jones willingness to sit down and talk to the insurance industry itself.

“For the first year I think he’s been somewhat, I don’t want to say inaccessible, but he’s certainly not putting himself out there in the type of conferences, meetings and stuff like that where normally the commissioner would come and give an update as to what he’s doing where he’s been,” said Bob Hogeboom, a regulatory lawyer with the Los Angeles office of Barger & Wolen. “I think he’s relatively been working behind the scenes. Certainly more than any other commissioner, he has not been out in the insurance public for any events that normally we would be able to see the commissioner and be able to have a dialog.”

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