- Federal health care reform (PPACA) mentions the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and/or the state Department of Insurance over two dozen times. Implementation at the state level will require a Commissioner who thoroughly understands how health insurance works in the real world. Having spent 17 years counseling agents, clients and consumers on health insurance issues makes me uniquely qualified for that task. Georgia law requires that our Agriculture Commissioner have an agriculture background. Obviously, one must be an attorney to be Attorney General. Yet we have never had an Insurance Commissioner who has a real world background in insurance. Too often, this office is sought by career politicians looking for a desk from which to retire, or aspiring politicians looking for a desk from which to launch. I am neither – I am an insurance agent and businessman who wants to see real world practicality applied to insurance regulation.
- I was the first of the now nine Republicans to register to run for the office of Insurance Commissioner. I did so because I saw the handwriting on the wall regarding Federal legislation. The reality turned out to be worse than I had imagined. Calling it the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is bad irony. There is absolutely nothing in this legislation to control costs and the market is already reacting with higher rates. The individual market particularly will skyrocket in price in the coming year. Our Insurance Commissioner is going to have to work hard to protect the Georgia citizen against the unintended consequences. Without a thorough understanding of how health care financing really works, the potential for even more damage is frightening. One candidate for this race is proposing a low risk pool. It doesn’t take an insurance expert to understand that you can’t pull off the healthy 21-year-olds without steeply increasing costs for everyone else. Now is not the time to elect a Commissioner who first has to learn the simple basics of insurance dynamics.
This Department touches the lives of every Georgia citizen every day. It requires someone who wants to stand up and fight for the Georgia citizen. My top priorities will be to 1) Make Georgia the best market for buying insurance in the US, which will include the best and most workable implementations of PPACA; 2) Increase fraud control and the efficiency of arson investigations despite an ever-decreasing budget; 3) Work with the General Assembly to finally fund a high risk pool in Georgia. 35 states have them, 10 additional states have an alternative for the high risk population. I have already researched high risk solutions in other states and will establish one in Georgia that sets a new standard; 4) Enhance a consumer service department that will benefit Georgians in navigating the complexities of insurance.
Georgia does not have an appropriate number of fire and arson investigators. As an example, Florida has approximately 15,000,000 people and 105 Fire Marshalls. Georgia has about 9,000,000 people and is supposed to have 15 Fire Marshalls – we currently have 5. In addition, they are paid about $15,000 less than their Florida counterparts. We can address this problem by utilizing the private market for arson lab and other services. I am in favor of decreasing the role of government where possible, and allowing use of private labs would not only accomplish this, but would bring jobs and increased safety to Georgians.
- I understand that down ticket races, particularly in an election year with a hotly contested gubernatorial race, don’t get much attention. The reality in this particular year is that your choice for Insurance Commissioner is one of the most important ones you will make. Buying into banner-waving rhetoric with no substance or offering a bureaucrat an opportunity to sweeten a government pension is not the answer. Peach Pundit readers are among the most politically astute voters in our great state. I invite you to visit my web site at www.StephenNorthington.com and treat this as you would a resume for a job interview. Encourage everyone you know to do the same. It really does matter.
- I appreciate your support and look forward to serving Georgia and Georgians.