NU Online News Service, March 18, 3:34 p.m. — Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift last Friday officially ended the sometimes tempestuous tenure of Insurance Commissioner Linda Ruthardt by naming Julianne Bowler to replace her.
Bowler, a former health insurance lobbyist, had been serving as first deputy insurance commissioner under Ruthardt, who took the post in 1998. Ruthardt is taking a position elsewhere in the administration that should be disclosed shortly, according to a department representative.
Swift, in her announcement late Friday, said she is “delighted that Julie has accepted this new position. Her experience at DOI and her knowledge of healthcare policy make her uniquely suited for the challenges of this position.”
The governor’s statement notes that, as first deputy commissioner, Bowler coordinated the oversight of financially challenged health maintenance organizations and insurance companies. She was also responsible for the redesign of the agent licensing and policy form review process.
Before getting her current position at the Division of Insurance, Bowler served as an insurance consultant to the Division of Medical Assistance. In that role, she provided health insurance expertise to the division as it designed and implemented the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
“I am honored to continue our work here in this new capacity and thank the governor for the opportunity she has provided me,” Bowler says. “None of the achievements this agency has accomplished would be possible without the dedication and talent of the employees we have here. It is a privilege to work with them daily.”
From 1994 to 1996, Bowler worked in government relations for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Previously, she was research and budget director for the Massachusetts House of Representatives Republican leader’s office.
Ruthardt, in a statement released by division representative Chris Goetcheus, is said to have had the second-longest tenure in the nation as insurance commissioner. She was appointed in 1993 by then Republican Gov. William F. Weld.
During her time in office she was a frequent target of complaints by consumer activists who found her too friendly with the business interests she regulated.
One of the biggest controversies to emerge during her time in office came over her decision permitting Electric Mutual Liability Insurance Company to move to Bermuda, from Massachusetts. EMLICO, which insured General Electric Company, Fairfield, Conn., against pollution claims, declared itself insolvent a few weeks after domesticating offshore.
Reinsurers, Massachusetts legislators and consumer critics said EMLICO lied about its financial state before moving to an island jurisdiction with laws that would make it easier to pass on its debts to reinsurers. Lawsuits that resulted eventually ended with settlements.
Ruthardt’s handling of EMLICO was not included in a list of her successes put out by her division. Among the items listed as achievements are the division’s first accreditation from the National Association of Insurance Commissioner, Kansas City, Mo., in 1994 and again in 1998.
The division announcement says Ruthardt commissioned the first-ever national survey on long-term care insurance, resulting in a comprehensive long-term care guide for consumers and regulations that incorporated greater disclosure requirements to consumers.
Under Ruthardt, Massachusetts was also the first state in the nation to allow insurers to renew agent appointments electronically, the division says.