Indiana insurance commissioner Stephen RobertsonQ: What challenges do you anticipate your particular state running into with upcoming health care reform provisions?

Stephen Robertson: As President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) is phased in, the greatest challenge moving forward for the Indiana Department of Insurance is to make sure that consumers who have coverage have a sense of stability, and to make sure that those who do not are properly educated about how they might go about obtaining it. Since states are on the front lines of implementation, people look to the states first for answers.

For example, the provisions that took effect Sept. 23, 2010 did not automatically enroll those beneficiaries whose children were under age 26, nor did it give a child under age 19 with a pre-existing condition automatic enrollment to obtain coverage. A parent must add them during the group plan’s next available open enrollment period. The challenge is to manage the perceptions and educate consumers about the realities, and we have to do it in a way that makes sure that we do not cause further uncertainty or frustration for our residents.

As we face the next phase of market changes, there remains even more public uncertainty about how this law will play out in the long run, and we are working diligently to mitigate many of the unintended consequences of this law.

Q: For producers licensed to sell health insurance in your state, what developments might they look out for in the short-term?

SR: Although the ACA intended to provide the infrastructure and tools to arm consumers with information so that they could make more informed health insurance decisions, these technological upgrades do not necessarily replace the entire role of producers. The reality is that producers will have to adapt to new ways of doing business, and that means they will first have to articulate to the public why it is that they are vital in helping consumers march benefits and services with the individual’s or family’s needs. Producers will need to capitalize on their ability to establish relationships with their customers that allow them to learn about individuals’ unique situations that cannot necessarily be substituted with technology. That is where producers will have to start re-establishing their new roles with health insurance products.

Q: What should producers concentrate on the most over the next 10 or so years with regard to health care reform’s effects in Indiana?

SR: It would be speculative for me to comment on any long-term implications for producers with so few regulations released from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I think it is safe to say that producers should continue to focus on advocating for consumers’ needs and to educate them about finding innovative ways to reduce their health care costs and, thus, their premiums.

Q: Is your state doing anything differently or preparing in any special way for health care reform?

SR: Currently, the Indiana Department of Insurance has formed a team headed by the Chief Deputy Commissioner of Company Compliance [Robyn Crosson], and she has hired an additional three full-time employees as a result of the health care insurance changes.

Like most states, our health insurance reform team spends numerous hours participating in the National Association of Insurance Commissioners‘ and the Department of Health and Human Services’ conference calls in an effort to obtain the latest information to best educate and protect Indiana residents’ interests. From this information, the team works hard to brief me about any advice I should render to the administration’s policy advisors so that it will be as closely tailored to Indiana residents’ interests as it can be.

Q: What did you get out of President Obama’s recent meeting with several state regulators?

SR: I had the privilege of being able to attend a meeting at the White House in September. It is always an honor to represent Gov. Daniels’ administration on behalf of Indiana. I enjoyed talking with my fellow colleagues across the nation, and I certainly gained something from our conversations.

Gov. Mitch Daniels announced the appointment of Stephen Robertson as commissioner of the Department of Insurance on Oct. 13, 2010. Robertson joined DOI in 2008, first as director of the Title Insurance Division, and then deputy commissioner of the Title and Bail Bond Division.

More state insurance regulator Q&As:

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Indiana Facts At-A-Glance

Indiana

United States

Demographics

Total population

6,321,100

303,343,300

Median annual income

$46,579

$49.945

Health costs and budget

Health spending per capita

$5, 295

$5,283 (by state of residence)

Average employee contribution for family premium (% of total premium)

25%

27%

Health coverage

Uninsured population (% of total population)

13%

17%

Uninsured children (% of children)

8%

10%

Medicaid enrollment (% of total population)

16%

19%

Medicare enrollment (% of total population)

16%

15%

Monthly CHIP enrollment, June 2009

70,496

4,966,030

Health status

Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births)

7.9

6.8

Teen death rate (per 100,000 population)

68

62

AIDS diagnosis rate (per 100,000 population)

6.5

12.3

Overweight or obese children (% of children)

29.9%

31.6%

Adults who visited the dentist/clinic (% of adults)

68.3%

71.3%

Adults with disabilities (% of adults)

12.7%

12.1%

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation State Health Facts