An Update on the Work of Your NC Insurance Commissioner in Jan-Feb 2011

Attends Economic Forecast & Chamber Events

Two of the first public events North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin participated in or attended in 2011 were sponsored by the North Carolina Bankers Association, the North Carolina Chamber, the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, and many other leading business organizations. Speaker after speaker discussed the difficulties of the last year and how the business community anticipated the coming year would fare in the universal goal of the State emerging from the Great Recession stronger than before. There was also considerable musing as to what the new legislative majorities would mean for the direction of public policy and economic growth in the State.

Because insurance is interwoven throughout both economic and family enterprises, Goodwin was pleased to remind attendees that in his role he and his team had saved North Carolina families and businesses approximately $900 MILLION statewide in rate cuts, refunds, consumer claims regulation, and from fighting insurance fraud.

"And we accomplished these tremendous savings in just the first two years of my administration," said Goodwin.

During dire economic times or not, almost $1 BILLION in savings is an amazing result from North Carolina's Insurance Commissioner!

Goodwin also attended these events last year, as highlighted at this link.

Speaks to Insurance Agents, Community Groups, and Schools

Though visiting schools and fire departments are some of his favorites stops as state Insurance Commissioner, Wayne Goodwin also enjoys meeting both with the persons his office regulates as well as with community leaders.

Over the course of the first two months of 2011, Goodwin has made presentations and delivered remarks to citizens and business groups throughout the State - including Sampson, Guilford, Wake, Durham, Dare, Cumberland, Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Craven, Edgecombe, Wilson, Forsyth, and Johnston counties.

"When you regulate more than 300,000 licensees and serve as the State's fire chief for 53,000 first responders, and with 9 million citizens in the State, there's always going to be a great deal of public speaking, Q&A sessions, and official events," said Insurance Commissioner Goodwin. "I enjoy my job serving North Carolina!"


He also joined in a program with River Dell Elementary School in Johnston County wherein he highlighted the statewide and interstate travels of "Flat Stanley" with the Commissioner, and was one of the leading State officials participating in the Chairman's Banquet for the NC Black Leadership Caucus, an organization of which Goodwin is a lifetime member, and which met at the North Carolina Motor Speedway.

Strategizes on Good Government Reforms
"Good government" means different things to different people. Among the common denominators of those individual definitions are probably: Government that is honest, law-abiding, responsive, responsible, reasonable, frugal with the public treasury, protective of those who cannot protect themselves, respectful of diversity in myriad ways among the citizenry, and focused on the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution.

"Good government" also means, to many people, a system of government that encourages the maximum level of participation by citizens in the process of government - whether as voters, speakers at public meetings or other public squares, or as candidates or office holders, among others.

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin has a long record of supporting good government in the broadest sense and was very pleased to participate in Statewide discussions on the subject hosted by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem. Persons from across the ideological spectrum and from a variety of academic, business, civic, philanthropic, political, and religious organizations participated.

Hails NC Successes to Texas, Florida and Southeast Leaders

North Carolina is the envy of many States.

That statement - to North Carolinians - asserts the obvious.

But in its most objective sense, state Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin is able to attest to his State being admired and coveted by others in the Republic.

Over the last few months, business and government officials in Florida and Texas have sought him out and hosted presentations by Insurance Commissioner Goodwin on the work of his administration. (In the preceding year he has also made presentations to leaders nationally throughout the Southeastern United States, and in Louisiana, New York, and California.)

Among the great many things those States might possibly admire about North Carolina (e.g., its climate, its beaches and mountains, college basketball, business environment, top-notch university and community college systems), those States have honed in on:

how Goodwin has done much to improve greatly the coastal insurance "ticking time bomb" that he faced when sworn in after his 2008 election,

how there has been a 20% increase in the number of insurance companies choosing to write insurance in North Carolina since he took office (which gives citizens more options and better rates),

his official orders of $156 MILLION in health insurance refunds and $50 MILLION in automobile insurance refunds to citizens,

how he and his team have worked tirelessly to do their duty in achieving some of the best insurance rates in the country, and overall savings to his State's citizens of $900 MILLION (all within the first two years of his term).

He is most proud of how North Carolina is now the largest State in the country with the lowest automobile insurance rates, while still maintaining a highly competitive auto insuror market.

"When I do my job, consumers are protected, people and Tar Heel businesses save lots of money, firefighters have a fierce advocate, and we are better able to attract lots of jobs," said Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin.

Announces Major Fraud/Crime Ring Arrests, Record Restitution & Recoveries for Fraud Victims

State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, as noted elsewhere, is a crime fighter.

Early in 2011 he joined the Sheriffs of Edgecombe and Nash Counties in announcing the crackdown on an insurance fraud/automobile accident crime ring.

As noted in official reports,

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin today announced the arrest of 10 individuals involved in an alleged staged auto accident ring operating in Nash, Edgecombe and Franklin counties. Warrants have been issued for six other individuals believed to be involved.

Department of Insurance criminal investigators allege that brothers Howard Earl Whitfield, Jr., and Douglas Whitfield (warrant issued for arrest) were the ringleaders in conspiring with family members and others to stage auto accidents in an effort to defraud insurance companies. Investigators accuse them of filing insurance claims for accidents that never actually occurred and of physically staging accidents in which one suspect intentionally hit another suspect's vehicle from behind.

As a result of the efforts of the alleged group, Universal Insurance, Farm Bureau Insurance of North Carolina, GMAC Insurance, Nationwide Insurance and Geico Insurance paid out a total of $76,217.48 in claims between August 2009 and January 2010.

...

These arrests are the result of cooperation and joint investigation by the Department of Insurance, the Nash County Sheriff's Office and the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office.

The Department of Insurance employs 20 sworn law enforcement officers dedicated to investigating claims of insurance fraud. In 2010, these criminal investigators have seen more than 402 cases successfully closed with more than $21.1 million in restitution and recoveries, 88 criminal convictions and 126 arrests."

North Carolina's Insurance Commissioner is serious about his role as a crimefighter, and reminds readers about how it was one of his top goals when seeking election to the office.

"While my team and I are on the watch, criminals better watch out when they consider committing insurance fraud," said Goodwin.

He also heralded the record number of case closures and restitution in a given year by his Criminal Investigations Division, the oldest such unit among the nation's state insurance regulators, and recoveries by his Consumer Services Division.

"Department of Insurance criminal investigators are cracking down on the serious problem of insurance fraud," said Commissioner Goodwin. "Getting millions and millions of dollars back into the hands of victims of insurance fraud is a significant accomplishment."

An estimated 10 percent of all insurance claims involve some degree of fraud. When insurance companies pay for fraudulent claims, all consumers pay in the form of higher insurance premiums.

"As your Insurance Commissioner, I am working to keep insurance premiums as low as possible for North Carolinians; fighting fraud is an important step towards reaching that goal," Goodwin said.

More video coverage of the press conference led by Goodwin and the sheriffs appears here at this link.

Receives AARP Award

AARP-North Carolina has recognized the Seniors Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) for its outstanding work for North Carolinians.
On hand for the occasion was state Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, within whose department resides the SHIIP program.

Goodwin joined the North Carolina's AARP leaders in praising the work of Senior Deputy Commissioner Carla Obiol and her team.

"It makes me so proud for our SHIIP team to receive recognition for its outstanding work on behalf of Tar Heel senior citizens," added Goodwin. "And for the honor to come from the AARP - itself known nationally for its dedicated leadership for seniors - makes us even more humbled."

Thanks Firefighters, Presents State's Highest Honor

State Fire Marshal Wayne Goodwin - who also serves as Insurance Commissioner - expressed appreciation to firefighters across eastern North Carolina during his January 2011 stop in New Bern. During a fundraiser for area first responders, he also presented the State's highest civilian honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, on behalf of the Governor to Tommy Moore.
Photo credit: Charlie Hall, New Bern Sun Journal.

Visits, Speaks for East Carolina University

Over the course of just a few months, East Carolina University in Greenville has hosted Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin for two different, yet related, meetings with students and faculty. First, Goodwin met with student business major leaders and lectured for a class within the newly-created insurance program at the university. Then, several months later, he joined local and state business leaders, including the Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina, in honoring students who had completed their coursework in the inaugural insurance program at ECU.

"ECU is not only a world class university in its own right, with a top-notch medical school, but it now provides the tools to train the next generation of insurance producers," said Commissioner Goodwin. "Programs like at ECU, Appalachian State, and UNC-Charlotte help ensure that future insurance agents and brokers are high caliber and of premier integrity, and who will serve consumers greatly in the years ahead."

Meets with Homebuilders/Realtors, Community Leaders, Democratic Women in Dare County

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin maximized a February 2011 trip to eastern North Carolina, where he met with business and community leaders throughout Dare County and parts of Currituck County.

Among his stops in Nags Head, Manteo, and Kitty Hawk, he spent significant meeting with insurance agents, local elected city and county officials, and board members of the local homebuilder and realtors associations.
Wearing his other hat - State Fire Marshal - Goodwin made a presentation and answered questions for a gathering of local fire chiefs and personnel from at least five departments.
Rounding out his visit, Goodwin delivered a spirited speech to more than 100 supporters attending the monthly meeting of the Democratic Women of Dare County at the famous Lone Cedar Restaurant, owned by retired State Senator Marc Basnight. Robin Mann, local leader and businesswoman, invited and introduced the Commissioner to the crowd.

As reported in the Island Free Press:

It did feel good to know that the consumer has someone [Goodwin] who is listening to us,” Robin Mann said, “and is as concerned as us with what’s happening in the insurance industry.”

Goodwin regularly travels throughout the State, especially in eastern North Carolina.

Comments

Awesome job, Wayne

We're proud to have you.

Sam

so...

...how exactly was the $900 million is rate savings achieved?

i can think of a number of ways you could accomplish such a task; some would seem more desirable than others:

--if health insurers were being relived of mandates to provide various types of coverage, it could result in lower rates but also insurance that would be of less value to consumers. (allowing the introduction of "very high deductible" policies across various lines of insurance would create much the same effect.)

--if health insurers, on the other hand, were simply gouging consumers and the good commissioner beat those savings out of them with a proverbial stick while protecting coverage levels, that's a fantastic accomplishment, and well worth praise from the voters.

--it is theoretically possible that the majority of the savings could have been concentrated in business lines of insurance even as "consumer" rates went up, and this would be of benefit to some north carolinians, but, clearly, not others.

so what exactly did happen?

details, please.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Excellent question, fake consultant! Here is the answer ...

In 2009, based on rigorous analysis by Department actuaries, application of Chapter 58 in our General Statutes to the filing, and negotiation terms among all the parties, I signed an Order that caused automobile insurance companies to refund $50 Million to approximately 1-in-4 NC drivers and reduced rates to the amount settled out-of-court such that rates were reduced another $545 Million over a three year period. A significant number of the State's driving population saw rate reductions and, accordingly, received refunds. In addition to the refunds and rate rollback to pre-2006 levels, and as agreed to by the parties, the insurance rates were frozen for several years through 2011. This year - guess what? - the insurance carriers decided to not seek any rate increases for another year, a fact which further shows that the settlement was appropriate and best for both policyholder-consumers and the NC market.

In 2009 and 2010, I signed Orders regarding workers' compensation insurance rates in North Carolina. Together it's my recollection that the savings for NC small business owners was approximately $120 Million. One might reasonably anticipate that those savings could be or were used by those small businesses to keep people employed and the doors of those small businesses open.

In September 2010, an agreement was reached between my office and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina such that health insurance carrier refunded excess contract reserves to more than 215,000 North Carolina consumers with individual policies. Pursuant to the agreement, consumers received $156.8 Million over an estimated three month period but before the December holidays.

In 2010, to the best of my knowledge, our Department's Consumer Services Division, Investigations Division, etc., recovered approximately $40 million, double the amount previously recovered in the preceding year for citizens and small businesses, etc., of another $20 Million or so. These monies were either due to insurance fraud, insurance overcharges, other types of erroneous or unlawful behavior or cost savings in persons having insurance cover medical procedures that had been initially denied, etc.

The above also doesn't factor in many other decisions, policy calls, or actions by the Department of Insurance that had additional, yet smaller, savings or returns to individuals, small businesses, or others, directly or indirectly, over the course of the last two years. One of the larger actions within this category is the Department's order in 2011 directing insurance companies to return $16 Million to the Beach Plan.

So, by my math using the actual numbers, we're already conservatively at $890 Million (and perhaps up to $940 Million) that your Insurance Commissioner and our NC Department of Insurance have been responsible for in savings, rebates, refunds, restitution, recoveries, etc., for the citizens of the State during the first half of my term in office.

I trust that this provides the answer to how approximately $900 Million in savings were achieved by my administration.

And, for those who have been following along over the last two years, much of the above detailed information about the savings has already appeared in blogposts here at BlueNC over the course of the last two years, over at the "Wayne's World" blog, at the official website of the NC Department of Insurance (www.ncdoi.com), and in the news media.

To reply to another point raised in the question, do know that the Department accomplished these things as a function of protecting consumers statewide and assuring consumers that insurance companies who choose to do business here are solvent.

Thank you for asking an excellent question! It is very helpful for folks to know these things. ...

I do recall most of that, Wayne

And again I would like to thank you for the work you do and your online activities educating us. It's a model of open government that I wish other public servants would emulate.

i appreciate that answer...

...and it brings to mind three more questions, based on the idea that what you're talking about here might have nationwide implications:

--you mentioned a reduction in contract reserve costs at blue cross/blue shield. is that something that's particular to this state, or do you have the impression there are other health insurers around the country who have reserves that are also needlessly high?

--do i understand correctly that the reductions in auto insurance rates were achieved in a way that is unique to the structure of the nc insurance market?

my understanding is that no other state has the "negotiation and settlement" process that occurs between your office and the rate bureau and the industry, and that the reinsurance facility is used in a way that is also different from what other states are doing; if that's correct i also assume your office's success would not necessarily be repeatable in other states.

--there are some who would suggest that, state-to-state, workers' comp rates are tending to converge; this because of the competition among the states to draw employers.

do you think this is happening because rates are aligning more correctly with the better-managed cost of quality care for injured workers...or is it possible that we are in a national "race to the bottom", with all workers eventually ending up worse off for the effort?

i'm asking you all this because, as you may know, i post around the country, and i'd love to see other states put some money back in the hands of their citizens as well, and if there's lessons here to be taught i want to get a story out as far and as wide as i can.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965