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Posts tagged: insurance commissioner

WA Lege Day 22: An unelected insurance commissioner?

OLYMPIA — Clashes over Obamacare helped spawn a  proposal to end Washington state's 65-year-old system of electing an insurance commissioner, replacing it with an appointed board who would select someone for the job.

Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville and the chairwoman of the Senate Health Care Committee, described her bill as a way to get broader representation in the office, with a 10-member board assuming the powers and responsibilities of the current commissioner, who is elected every four years. Each of the Legislature's four political caucuses would nominate three people, and the governor would select ten, making sure that the board includes at least one consumer advocate, one insurance expert, one small business representative and one economist or actuary. Other groups would also have to be represented on the board.

The board would then hire someone as the insurance commissioner.

Such a board would provide “a much more open approach of how we deal with health care,” said Becker, who was critical of a decision by current Commissioner Mike Kreidler not to allow low-cost, high-deductible plans in the state that didn't have some basic services covered by the Affordable Care Act. 

Kate Nichols, who lost a plan that she said worked for her family, contended that having a person at the top without anyone to review his or her decisions increases the possibility the commissioner will make a mistake.

But others said the commissioner's performance is reviewed every four years, by voters. Becker's proposal would make the commissioner accountable to an unelected board and increase the bureaucracy.

“The insurance commissioner is accountable to the citizens and the Legislature,” Mary Clogston of AARP said. “He can only enforce the laws that you write.”

Kreidler heart surgery successful

OLYMPIA — Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is recovering from a heart bypass and valve replacement surgery.

A statement from his office said the surgery at an Olympia hospital was planned after doctors had monitored his heart for several months. Kreidler, 69, was elected to a fourth term last November. Acting Chief Deputy Deb McCurley is filling in durying his recovery.

Regence fined for IUD policy

OLYMPIA — The state's second largest insurance company was fined $100,000 for improperly denying coverage to women seeking to remove a common birth control device.

Regence Blue Shield was also ordered to reimburse 984 women across the state for the cost of removing the intrauterine devices, the state Insurance Commissioner's office said.

Regence had a policy that paid for the insertion of an IUD, but wouldn't pay for its removal unless it was deemed “medically necessary.” That meant claims were denied for women who wanted their birth control device removed because they wanted to become pregnant or because the device was outdated.

Three women appealed the denial to the insurance company, but when they were denied again didn't take it any further. A fourth woman complained to the Insurance Commissioner's office, which ruled Regence's policy was violated a policy dating to the beginning of 2002 that requires insurance companies that cover prescription drugs must cover contraceptives and the procedures necessary to remove them.

The office reviewed Regence records back to 2002, and found 984 cases where women were improperly denied coverage. The company was ordered to reimburse them, with interest, at a cost of nearly $150,000. That's on top of the $100,000 fine the insurance company was ordered to pay the state.

WA state makes insurance info a click away

OLYMPIA — Washington residents who are shopping for insurance are now able to check out their prospective agent and insurance company online.

The Washington Insurance Commissioner's office debuted today a new  toolkit that allows consumers to enter the name of the agent, the insurance company, or the location and see any past violations or complaints.

It also explains the ins and outs of different kinds of insurance, allows you to file a complaint online.

“In the past, these types of things sometimes required phone calls, letters in the mail and waiting time while a staffer looked up information,” Commissioner Mike Kreidler said. “With these new tools, people can get the information instantly.”

The agency als has a new page on Facebook...but then, doesn't everyone this side of Outer Mongolia have a page on Facebook?

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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