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California Democrat to Lead Insurance Legislator Group

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What You Need to Know

  • Ken Cooley worked as a lawyer for State Farm for 18 years.
  • Kevin Cahill helped start a small Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Tom Oliverson, the treasurer, is an anesthesiologist.

Members of the National Council of Insurance Legislators have picked Democrats to hold the group’s two top officer slots in the coming year.

California Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, succeeded Indiana Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, as NCOIL’s 2021-2022 president last week, at the group’s annual meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona.

New York Assemblymember Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, succeeded Cooley as NCOIL’s vice president.

The new NCOIL treasurer is Texas Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Houston, and the new secretary is Arkansas Rep. Deborah Ferguson, D-West Memphis.

Tom Considine, a former New Jersey insurance commissioner, continues to be NCOIL’s CEO.

What It Means

In theory, NCOIL’s leadership makeup could help the group work better with the administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and it could cause friction if Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives, the Senate or both chambers.

Cooley himself suggested in a statement that NCOIL is an example of a group where Republicans and Democrats work well together.

“I am proud of the bipartisan friendships and solutions that NCOIL promotes, and I consider it a great honor to be asked to take on duties as NCOIL president during 2022,” Cooley said in the statement.

Other NCOIL officers also emphasized the collaborative nature of their organization.

Ferguson, a dentist who serves on the Arkansas House Insurance and Commerce Committee, said that she has appreciated having a chance to learn more about insurance issues in a nonpartisan atmosphere.

Cooley, a lawyer who worked for State Farm for 18 years and who is a member of the California Insurance Committee and chair of the state Assembly Rules Committee, said NCOIL helps lawmakers solve insurance availability and operations problems.

NCOIL’s work makes the group’s meetings practical and bipartisan, Cooley said.

A Pandemic Year

NCOIL is a Manasquan, New Jersey-based group that was founded in 1969. It serves as an educational forum for state legislators with an interest in insurance.

The group helps members keep up with insurance regulators over at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

NCOIL usually elects a new slate of officers every year. For 2020-2021, members responded to the uncertainty and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by electing the 2019-2020 officers to serve a second term.

Surprise Billing

Oliverson, NCOIL’s new treasurer, is an anesthesiologist.

Anesthesiologists have been at the center of some of the controversies surrounding commercially insured patients who seek care from in-network hospitals and come away with huge bills from out-of-network providers.

Congress recently passed federal “balance billing,” or “surprise billing,” legislation.

Oliverson has worked on “balance billing” in Texas. His knowledge of the insurer’s perspective and the anesthesiologist’s perspective could increase NCOIL’s visibility in future surprise billing policymaking efforts.

Assemblyman Ken Cooley (Photo: Cooley)