Today’s blog post comes from Michael J. Mishak’s article in The Center for Public Integrity, which is located at publicintegrity.org.
The headline says a lot about the article. Though it’s a lengthy read, the article is worth the time it takes to digest it.
Nebraska and Iowa are the two states that we are most concerned with, as that’s where our lawyers are licensed to practice. In addition, these two states are important nationally because many insurance companies have their corporate headquarters in Nebraska and Iowa. I found it very illuminating that there are stories about both states regarding relationships and experiences that government officials who are insurance regulators have with insurance industry executives. Iowa also seems to be a mixed bag, with the same person asking for “more funding to buoy regulators” but at another time, splitting hairs on the state’s definition of lobbying.
I have written on how the “Workers’ Comp Industrial Complex” harms workers, which was based on an expose in ProPublica. It may be time for media coverage that looks into the overlap, favors and cozy ties that insurance companies have with the government regulators who are supposed to hold them accountable.
“The stakes are enormous,” Mishak writes in the CPI article.
“Because Congress has long left regulation of the insurance industry to the states, these little-known regulators, one per state, wield immense power over one of the largest segments of the U.S. economy. Charged chiefly with protecting consumers, commissioners review rate changes, investigate complaints and make sure insurers have enough money to pay claims.”
Consumers who rely on their insurance to protect them need to be able to trust that insurance commissioners with so much power and so little transparency will still have consumers’ best interests at heart, instead of prioritizing the interests of commissions’ friends in the insurance industry.
Who’s Calling the Shots in State Politics?
Drinks, dinners, junkets and jobs: how the insurance industry courts state commissioners
Center probe reveals cozy relationships, revolving doors and shady financial ties
By Michael J. Mishak
When the Arkansas insurance commissioner weighed the merits of a hospital’s billing complaint against United Healthcare, her interactions with one of the nation’s largest health insurers extended far beyond her department’s hearing room.
During months of deliberations, Commissioner Julie Benafield Bowman met repeatedly with United Healthcare lawyers and lobbyists over lunch and drinks at venues such as the Country Club of Little Rock.
“I had a blast with you Monday night,” Benafield emailed United Healthcare lawyer Bill Woodyard, himself a former state insurance commissioner. “Thank you so much for entertaining us.”
Commissioner Benafield ultimately decided the case in United Healthcare’s favor — a 2008 ruling that stood to save the company millions of dollars. Nearly two years later, by the time a judge vacated the commissioner’s orders because there was “an appearance of impropriety in the proceedings,” Benafield had moved on: She was working for United Healthcare, having joined at least three of her predecessors representing insurers in Arkansas.
Read more at The Center for Public Integrity.