Thomas R. Sullivan, Connecticut insurance commissioner, announced Tuesday that he would resign, just days after an outcry from consumer groups and auto body groups demanding his removal.
Sullivan was reported by BestWire on Oct. 26 to have approved rate increases up to 46.9% for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield individual policyholders after the passage of the health care reform bill. The action caused Citizens for Economic Opportunity, comprised of advocacy groups and labor unions, to call on Connecticut Gov. Jodi M. Rell to remove him from office. He was appointed by Rell to the post in 2007.
On Oct. 29, auto body groups had also called for his removal, charging that he “hurt small businesses and automobile insurance consumers in part by failing to act on claims of insurer misconduct in settling collision repair claims and siding with the insurance industry on the use of after-market parts.”
The commissioner had also opposed a bill that would compel the insurance department to hold a public hearing on any requested rate increase of 10% or higher. He has also, according to NU Online News Service, supported retained asset accounts (RAAs), which veterans’ groups and others oppose.
According to Debra Korta, a spokeswoman for the insurance department, Sullivan will be taking a “tremendous position” at PricewaterhouseCoopers after his resignation takes effect Nov. 12.
The report quoted Carmen Balber, director of the Washington, D.C., office of Consumer Watchdog, saying that state commissioners "are consumers' main line of defense against unjustified double-digit premium increases." When they fail to use that authority, she added, consumers must be able to challenge unfair rate hikes and insurance companies must be made to justify rates publicly.
While in office, Sullivan had opened rate filings for public inspection and imposed the largest fine in the department’s history, $2.1 million, against insurer Assurant for violations related to short-term insurance policies. A report in the Hartford Courant said that, although there is no indication that Sullivan’s decision resulted from pressure to resign, consumer pressure is likely to continue on the department.