Consumer Watchdog, the nonpartisan consumer advocacy agency, on Tuesday warned that close ties to the insurance industry through lobbying, contributions, and appointments could affect an upcoming vote on Sunday by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) concerning the rates people pay for health insurance.
According to Consumer Watchdog’s data, 24 state insurance commissioners worked for the insurance industry before they were appointed to their present posts, and two were elected with the assistance of campaign contributions from the industry. Six past presidents, the group also found, left NAIC since 2000 to work in the industry as lobbyists and as consultants.
The group called for a number of actions to level the playing field: a ban by NAIC on commissioners lobbying former colleagues once they leave their posts; a prohibition on taking a job within the insurance industry for at least a year when they depart NAIC; for governors to reconsider appointments of insurance industry insiders as state insurance commissioners; and for states to prohibit insurance industry campaign contributions to candidates for the post of insurance commissioner.
Carmen Balber, Washington director for Consumer Watchdog, said in a statement, "The insurance commissioner holds the state's top consumer protection job, with enormous impact on the price of consumers' health insurance. Commissioners shouldn't be regulating former employers or campaign supporters." Balber added, "With the National Association of Insurance Commissioners becoming such a prominent voice in health reform implementation, it's critical that we close the revolving door between the insurance industry and regulators."