Nation/World


Senn Appears To Relish Confrontation With Industry

MONDAY, SEPT. 9, 1996

Ralph Nader calls her the best insurance commissioner in the nation.

Republican opponents call her the worst commissioner in the country.

Deborah Senn ignites reaction.

When insurance companies turned in their annual reports this year, Senn lambasted executives for pocketing huge salaries at the same time they wanted to raise premiums.

“If the president of the United States runs the country for $250,000 a year, I don’t think the head of a non-profit company needs to make $742,000,” Senn said, referring to Blue Cross CEO Betty Wood’s 1995 earnings.

It was one of many jolts Senn has sent through the industry in the past four years with her insinuations of corporate greed and dishonesty.

Republicans and the industry blame her for scaring off insurance companies, boosting individual health premiums and failing to quickly answer consumer concerns.

She’s also been tarred as a hypocrite for accepting campaign money from a close insurance friend while claiming she shunned all industry cash.

Senn, 46, is an energetic Illinois-raised attorney and mountain climber who seems to relish the attack. She uses it to fortify her reputation as the besieged, but fearless, consumer advocate.

“I was elected to do things,” she said. “The highest compliment I get from people is that I’m out there, mixing it up. Sometimes I’m out there ruffling the feathers of industry, but that’s my job.”

Senn has about three times the campaign cash of any of her challengers.

She casts her looming battle like this:

“Is the office of the commissioner going to be directed by a consumer advocate or is it going to return to the hands of the industry?”

, DataTimes



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