Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. (PRNewsFoto/Oklahoma Insurance Department) John Doak (Photo: Oklahoma Insurance Department)

Seven states held some kind of primary election or special election Tuesday. For many voters,  the overriding question about those elections may be have been, “Was there really an election today, or are you just trying to fool me?”

Some of those little-noticed, low-participation elections could have implications for life and health insurance agents.

(Related: Doak to Senate Panel: Audit the ACA Navigators)

Here’s a look at some of the results that could affect the everyday lives of agents, and especially of those who are active in professional groups’ legislative affairs efforts.

1. Oklahoma will be getting a new insurance commissioner.

Oklahoma elects its insurance commissioners. The state held Republican and Democratic commissioner primaries Tuesday.

The Contenders

The Republicans: The Republican primary candidates were Donald Chasteen and Glen Mulready.

Mulready won, with 54.75% of the 399,690 votes cast.

Mulready is a member of the Oklahoma House. He is also owns an employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm, Benefit Plan Strategies of Tulsa.

From 2001 through 2007, Mulready was vice president of marketing at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma. He set up his own benefits firm in 2008.

Mulready says on his website that he wants to vigilant about regulating insurer solvency, insurance producer honesty and insurer claim payment practices.

He also says that it wants to expand consumer access to insurance options and create a business-friendly environment.

The Democrat: Kimberly Fobbs, the chair of the Tulsa County Democratic Party, was not on the ballot on Tuesday, because she is the only Democrat running for commissioner in Oklahoma in November.

She worked at units of MetLife Inc. from 1990 through 20106. She helped manage product call center performance, both for institutional products and for individual life and annuity products. Her credentials include certifications from LOMA.

The Commissioner Who’s Leaving

John Doak, the current commissioner, will be leaving his post at the end of the year, because of state-imposed term limits.

Doak, a fiscally conservative Republican, has been active in efforts to oppose the Affordable Care Act. In September 2017, for example, he called at a Senate hearing for Congress to investigate the organizations working as ACA public exchange system navigators, or consumer helpers.

Doak has focused mainly on participating in property-casualty committees at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, but he is a member of the NAIC’s Innovation and Technology Task Force, and he has represented  the NAIC at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

2. The odds that South Carolina will keep its current top insurance regulator have increased.

South Carolina has an appointed insurance department director: Raymond Farmer.

The current governor, Henry McMaster, is a Republican. He was the top vote-getter in a Republican primary held June 12, but he attracted too few votes to avoid a runoff.

In a runoff on Tuesday, McMaster squared off against John Warren, the founder and owner of a specialty mortgage finance company.  McMaster won 53.63% of the 342,741 votes cast.

The Democratic candidate for governor will be James Smith Jr., who avoided having to go through a runoff by winning 61.81% of the votes cast in the Democratic gubernatorial primary on June 12. Smith, who served in the infantry in Afghanistan, is a trial lawyer.

3. Cannabis is popular.

Oklahoma voters voted Tuesday on State Question 788 — a ballot measure that seeks to legalize use of marijuana for medical purposes by patients in Oklahoma.

Voters approved the measure: They give it 56.84% of the 891,654 the cast in connection with that item.

For agents, one takeaway is that discussions of insurance benefits, or lack of benefits, for medical marijuana might be one way to get consumers thinking about health insurance.

4. Single-payer health care and Medicare-for-all proposals could get more attention.

A U.S. House primary in New York City may increase the visibility of efforts by progressive Democrats to support Medicare-for-all proposals and single-payer health care system proposals.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a bartender who started working on the staff of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., caught the nation’s attention by defeating Rep. Joe Crowley, a top-ranked Democrat. Crowley who has seen serving in the House since 1999. He had not faced a primary opponent in many years.

Because Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans in the district, political analysts are already assuming that Ocasio-Cortez will end up serving in the House.

Crowley supported Medicare-for-all bills. He also supported the Affordable Care Act.

In July 2014, for example, he scoffed at the idea that applicant eligibility screenining problems would be a major challenge for ACA exchange plan issuers.

“What’s the ultimate prize here for the criminal?” Crowley asked at the time. “A free colonoscopy?”

Ocasio-Cortez may be a more visible promoter of single-payer bills, but less willing to invest political capital in defending  the ACA.

In the health issues section of her campaign website, Ocasio-Casio says the following about health policy:

You can count on Alexandria to fight for people-centered health care more than any other candidate, because she’s the only candidate that doesn’t accept money from pharmaceutical lobbyists or private insurance companies.

Extending single payer to the American public has rippling positive effects: people will take less time off work, have more money in their pocket, and other issues – like mass incarceration, homelessness, and more — will also be alleviated with an increase in the number of people getting the mental and physical health care they need.

At this point in the U.S., we’ve tried almost every other system of healthcare, and we know it doesn’t work. The Affordable Care Act was a great step forward to insure the previously ‘uninsurable,’ but for many Americans, costs are still far too high. The prices of co-pays, premiums, and deductibles are skyrocketing. We’re paying more for less every year. Improving Medicare and extending it to all Americans can fix these problems

— Read Take Single-Payer Health Care Proposals Seriously: Sally Pipeson ThinkAdvisor.

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