Wayne Goodwin - NC Commissioner of Insurance | Candidate Questionnaires - Statewide | Indy Week
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Wayne Goodwin - NC Commissioner of Insurance 

Name as it appears on the ballot: Wayne Goodwin

Campaign website: www.waynegoodwin.org

Phone number: (910) 997-1301

Email: info@waynegoodwin.org

Years lived in the state: 49 (all my life)

1.  What do you see as the most important issues facing the Department of Insurance in North Carolina? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

Health insurance: NC’s GOP-majority legislature and current Governor must greatly change their policies and positions the last 4 years that have caused 500,000+ citizens to go without health insurance, that have caused at least two new companies to avoid coming into our state at a time when our people and Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC desperately need a more competitive health insurance market, and that have triggered an unnecessary federal tax on health insurance policyholders in our state. 

More specifically, NC must reverse course and choose to expand Medicaid, as 30+ states have already done; otherwise, many billions of NC taxpayer dollars will go to those other states over a decade, half-a-million residents will have no health insurance, and our hospitals and doctors will face increasing pressures to close their doors. 

In addition, over my objections almost four years ago and notwithstanding originally accepting my recommendation, the General Assembly must reclaim regulatory authority it took from me as Insurance Commissioner when it decided to have nothing to do with the ACA whatsoever.  When the NC General Assembly took its current position on the ACA, that prevented NC from attracting new health insurance companies, and prevented me, among other things, from overseeing and manage rate filings more directly in the manner that I regulate auto and homeowners’ insurance (where NC has among the lowest average premiums). In the 2017 legislative session I will seek statutory changes regarding health insurance.

Consumer Protections & Consumer Services: Over the last eight years, insurance companies and other special interests – and some legislators – and those who incorrectly claim to be consumer advocates like my 2016 election opponent, a former paid insurance lobbyist and insurance executive — have sought ways to greatly restrict or curtail consumer protections.  Their attempts would cause price hikes in automobile and homeowners’ insurance, and harm those very competitive markets here in our State. It’s imperative that whomever serves as Insurance Commissioner be someone whose Number 1 Goal every day is to answer this question: “Have I done what’s in the consumers’ best interests?” That’s the question that guides me.

To that end, as the incumbent Insurance Commissioner I see my official actions on insurance company rate filings as consumer protections as well.  As you will read more fully below, on my watch and due to decisions made by me and my team, North Carolinians have now saved over $2.4 Billion. NC has among the very lowest auto insurance premiums in the USA and the lowest homeowners’ insurance premiums in the South.  Consumer protections, in my view, also are reflected in how much money I save family pocketbooks via rate cuts, refunds, rebates, restitution and negotiated settlements.

As for Consumer Services, in a day and age where more and more consumers rely on insurance transactions via Internet or who contact insurance agents or companies that do not even have offices in their community, and as more and more scofflaws come up with scams to steal or bamboozle you in-person or on-line, it’s vital that we maintain and bolster our NCDOI Consumer Services Division.  While all of my employees at the NC Department of Insurance are hard-working, dedicated public servants, the knowledgeable and helpful colleagues in my Consumer Services Division are on the front lines when there are needs, questions, scams and tragedies.  Each year they handle at least 150,000 calls, and assist consumers and insurance agents with myriad questions and solutions. During my time in office, we’ve added positions to this division, and re-organized to be more flexible for consumer needs, etc.  During the recent BCBSNC IT fiasco affecting 400,000 North Carolina policyholders, the Consumer Services Division of the Department of Insurance successfully fielded and resolved quadruple the number of questions and written complaints than it normally receives in a six-month period.  In the 2017 legislative session I will ask for additional resources to fight fraud.

Fighting fraud.  Around since 1946, the NC Department of Insurance has the oldest anti-fraud unit in the nation. Because it’s estimated that 10 cents of every premium dollar goes toward paying a fraudulent claim, it is vital – imperative – that the Department have the resources it needs to protect people and small businesses from crooks, scoundrels, embezzlers, and scofflaws.  On my watch we’ve added Investigator positions, re-organized the unit to better serve and protect the State, and intensified our fraud-fighting focus.  The numbers speak for themselves: at least 1200 arrests, at least 850 convictions, $75 Million recovered for fraud victims during my eight years as Insurance Commissioner. In addition to the ever-present standard types of fraud like false claims and staged auto accidents, we must now battle cybercrime and other high-tech attempts of stealing your money, property, personal information, and identity.  In the 2017 legislative session I will ask for additional resources to fight fraud.

To sum up my top three issues, they are:

Fighting for a more competitive health insurance market;

Fighting for consumers to have the lowest, fairest insurance rates possible; and,

Fighting criminals, scam artists and rogue insurance agents.

A fourth priority is continuing my plan of “strategic, targeted de-regulation”, which allows for more flexibility and options for consumers, businesses, and regulated entities as warranted by 21st century practices. (Because it is targeted and not overly broad de-regulation like my opponent and others seek, consumers are protected and regulated entities do not have the scales tipped in their favor.)  We’ve already enjoyed success with my fourth priority thus far (see below).

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you have identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to your current goals.

As NC Insurance Commissioner:

● Saved North Carolinians over $2.4 BILLION by ordering rate cuts, refunds, rebates, and restitution, etc., during two terms as Insurance Commissioner

● Fined BCBSNC $3.6 MILLION, the highest NC insurance company penalty ever (almost double the previous fine) as a result of the NCDOI audit prompted by the recent IT fiasco affecting 400,000 policyholders, medical providers; indicative of my goal to hold insurance companies accountable … The fine contained within the settlement agreement I negotiated, pursuant to the NC Constitution, goes to NC public schools

● After the first public hearing in 23 years on homeowners’ insurance, issued an order with the impact of saving NC homeowners $600 MILLION, a decision upheld in August 2016 by a bipartisan unanimous panel of the NC Court of Appeals

● Ordered BCBSNC to rebate $156 MILLION to 215,000 NC families 

● Achieved NC’s unprecedented lowest average car insurance premiums in the USA

● Approx. 1200 arrests, 850 convictions, $75 Million recovered for fraud victims

● Preserved and expanded the volunteer fire department and rescue services grant fund programs such that approximately $10 Million in annual distributions are made to eligible departments, which contributes to safer communities, lower homeowners insurance premiums, and fewer firefighter deaths and injuries (Note: As Insurance Commissioner, I also serve as State Fire Marshal.)

● Maintained a commitment to our senior citizens by enhancing outreach and conducting town hall meetings and other information empowerment sessions about Medicare and prescription drug plans.  Last year alone my team helped 108,000 NC senior citizens, provided 87,000 hours of assistance and helped them save many millions of dollars during their Medicare enrollment/re-enrollment period.

● Persuaded the legislature to make NC only the second state in the USA to enact a cap on long-term care insurance premiums, thereby protecting our senior citizens from massive price hikes in their latter years

● Persuaded the legislature to update the Safe Driver Incentive Program for inflation so drivers in small bump-ups and very minor accidents are less likely to incur insurance points and higher insurance premiums merely because it costs more now to repair minor bump-ups and fender-benders.

● Recognizing that 21st century businesses and 21st century consumers behave differently than 25 years ago, I succeeded in persuading the legislature to allow for smart, targeted de-regulation that provides additional flexibility and options for individuals, families, and businesses in the purchase of insurance.  Whether a bypass of the NC Rate Bureau or allowances for creation of “captive” insurance companies, these have empowered consumers and businesses. For example, consumers now have more “bells and whistles” or enhancements or add-ons to their policies than ever before. Further, with my captive insurance program, we have helped attract 300 new businesses to NC.  Captive insurance also simultaneously cause tax savings for companies and new revenue for the NC general fund.

As NC State Representative (1997-2004):

● Co-sponsored legislation that moved NC to the national average on salaries for public school teachers

● Co-sponsored legislation that created a Healthcare Bill of Rights

● Supported legislation that helped rural communities with economic development

● Co-sponsored/supported legislation and budgets that better funded our community colleges, public universities, HBCUs.

● Introduced legislation that enhanced public safety, personal security, personal privacy, environmental protections/conservation, government transparency

(plus many, many more examples)

3. How would you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I’m a North Carolina Democrat in the mold of Governors Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt, a leader focused on pragmatism and positive results, moving North Carolina forward and not backward, listening to all voices from across the state, expanding equality and opportunities for all and not the privileged few or special interests.

My political philosophy appears throughout my public achievements as NC Insurance Commissioner (and as a legislator before that) — All you need do is look at the results: proven savings for families and NC small businesses, holding insurance companies accountable, standing up for our firefighters, protecting those who need help most (such as our children and senior citizens).  My 2016 platform is a continuation of my prior work and commitment to North Carolina.

Indicative of my political philosophy is the deep, diverse, bipartisan support I’ve received for my re-election bid:  I’ve received endorsements from Republican and Democratic state insurance commissioners from around the country, all three major law enforcement groups in NC, the Sierra Club, Equality NC, the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, the People’s Alliance, the NCAE, Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association of NC, business groups, labor groups, insurance agents, and many others.

4. In 2013, the legislature barred the state from expanding Medicaid or setting up its own insurance exchange in accordance with the Affordable Care Act. As a result of the failure to expand Medicaid, 450,000 North Carolinians are stuck in what’s known as the “coverage gap”—they make too much for Medicaid eligibility but not enough to receive tax credits. How would you use your role as insurance commissioner to help North Carolinians in the coverage gap? 

First of all, I will continue intensely advocating for the state to expand Medicaid.  I’ve confronted legislative leaders and Governor McCrory about these matters, and have stressed how expanding Medicaid is the financially prudent, morally-correct action to take. 

Additionally, I continue to advocate for North Carolina to establish its own health insurance exchange. Though the federal grants have ended (and the legislature forced me to return $74 Million in federal grants, much of which was earmarked for consumer education and establishing an exchange), our state would help its people by controlling our State’s destiny better on health insurance than merely deferring to the federal option.  Not only should we revert to a state exchange, but I will join the legislature and the next Governor in seeking waivers to allow more flexibility so the results can be obtained more quickly for our citizens.

If North Carolina had expanded Medicaid and established a state exchange, then there’d be NO coverage gap, at least two more health insurance companies would have come here to compete with BCBSNC (and the two other companies that left probably would have stayed, too, which would have provided much better options for consumers).

Third, as NC Insurance Commissioner I have had an ongoing dialogue with US HHS Secretary Burwell and others in CMS and regular conversations with bipartisan members of our Congressional delegation about North Carolinians facing the coverage gap.  As a statewide-elected official, I have a special role in these particular matters and a talented team of NC Department of Insurance experts to assist.

Fourth, as I’ve already been doing, my team and I have used every opportunity possible - within state statutes - to provide consumer education so North Carolinians know their health insurance options under existing law. We’ve redoubled our efforts with town hall meetings, partnered with community and consumer-oriented groups and associations, extended radio and TV interviews and programming, etc.

Meanwhile, in other venues my opponent has stated his complete opposition to every provision of the ACA and his complete opposition to Medicaid expansion. He has said a simple solution is allowing consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines. His proposed solution is no solution because it harms consumers dramatically: If you buy from a company across state lines, then that means you’re buying from an insurance company that’s not licensed to do business here, there are no consumer protections, the company wouldn’t be regulated by this State, and you’ve bought coverage with an insurance company that is not part of any hospital or doctor network in this state.  That’s no solution whatsoever.

As a statewide-elected official relied upon by almost 10 million citizens, I recognize there is often the need to utilize the “bully pulpit” to effectuate change or encourage other elected officials and businesses to do the right thing for our people.  I also use that leverage to counter special interests when they are out of line with what’s best for North Carolina.

5. Last year, North Carolina passed Medicaid reform. Advocates say this law will save money; opponents say that it serves only to benefit insurance companies. What is your position on this legislation, and, as insurance commissioner, how would you use your role to enforce it? 

I have serious concerns that the reform measure crafted by the GOP-led legislature took a system well-run by community hospitals and medical doctors and, instead, potentially opened the door to benefiting special interests – like insurance companies – and restricting care. While considering changes to protect families and to reasonably address the financial needs of providers are good, we must be very careful not to make things worse.  Medicaid is intended as a safety net; there should not be holes in it.

As for my role to enforce Medicaid, let me first be abundantly clear: Medicaid is NOT within the NC Department of Insurance.  The Medicaid program comes within the jurisdiction of the NC Department of Health and Human Services.  Notwithstanding, the legislature did create a new, limited role for the NC Insurance Commissioner and Department of Insurance regarding the financial solvency of entities seeking to participate in the Medicaid reform.  One concern of mine is that early on there was a push by some in the legislature and in the Governor’s office to have a lower financial standard for entities choosing to participate in the Medicaid reform program; that prompted my grave concerns because with lower financial standards there’s a greater likelihood of involvement of businesses that could go bankrupt, leaving North Carolina taxpayers in the lurch and having to financially rescue the Medicaid program.

6. Homeowners’ insurance rates have risen over the past couple of years, prompting a proposal to give the insurance commissioner more authority over rates and requiring more transparency from insurance companies. How, as commissioner, how would you work to keep rates low for North Carolina homeowners? What is the insurance commissioner’s role in holding insurance companies accountable for misleading or wronging consumers?

Working hard to keep rates low and fair for North Carolina homeowners is something I do all the time. It is a constant battle.

In fact, after I presided over the first homeowners’ insurance hearing (or trial) in 23 years and weighing all the facts, evidence, sworn testimony and relevant law on the subject, I denied the insurance industry’s request to raise rates by 25%.  By rejecting those rate increase requests and other components of my Order, I saved North Carolina homeowners $600 Million. Some areas of the state saw reductions. Furthermore, the insurance companies appealed my decision and this Summer a bipartisan panel of the NC Court of Appeals upheld my decision.  The insurance companies have now asked the NC Supreme Court to hear one final appeal because they believe more insurance company profit is warranted; I am fighting that appeal.

A few years ago on another insurance filing I also negotiated and leveraged smaller increases and ordered reductions in some parts of the State based on the facts and applicable insurance claims history, and what was fairest for all.

Meantime, despite my successes with homeowners’ insurance rates, more insurance companies have chosen to rely on a little-known statute that allows them to surpass the rate caps I set if the companies get their policy holders merely to sign a form. It’s called the “Consent to Rate” form.  Among other concerns, there’s a problem with overuse of that process because CTR is intended for special underwriting circumstances, not every day underwriting, and the rates that are consented to by the policyholders do not appear to be based on actuarial necessity.  My team and I are presently examining the process and will report back to the legislature our suggestions. In the last legislative session, we succeeded in having additional CTR transparency so consumers know much better what they’re being asked to sign.

This past legislative session a bipartisan group of legislators joined me in obtaining additional transparency in the ratemaking process.   We also succeeded in codifying the requirement that insurance companies provide more than one computer model in support of its position.  (Competing computer models, utilizing different formulae and assumptions, etc., helps me make a more accurate, fairer decision on homeowners’ insurance rates.)

I will continue working for the lowest homeowners’ insurance rates possible by (1) never rubber-stamping any new rate matter filed with the Department; (2) ordering public comment periods; (3) requiring my independent experts to scrutinize any filing for actuarial and legal review; (4) holding public hearings when possible; (5) making documents and data as transparent as possible; and, (6) reaching decisions that are consumer-friendly, with the fairest and lowest rates allowed by the facts and evidence at the time and the law, and which recognizes reasonable profit, fighting against excessive profit.

As for my role as Insurance Commissioner in holding insurance companies accountable for misleading or wronging customers, over the last 8 years my team and I have ordered rate cuts, refunds, rebates and restitution of over $2.4 Billion.  Some of those monies are also fines against insurance companies. The most recent fine and a strong example of my holding insurance companies accountable was the $3.6 Million against a company in August; it was almost double the highest fine ever against an insurance company in North Carolina.  My team regularly conducts audits and examinations of insurance companies, orders action plans to be undertaken by companies, issues fines, and engages against insurance companies on behalf of consumers.

7. After telling the Department of Insurance in May that it intended to continue offering plans, Aetna announced in August that it will drop ACA coverage in North Carolina in 2017. Humana and UnitedHealth Group have also dropped out of the exchange here. What does this mean for the future of the ACA in North Carolina? Is there any reason for optimism? 

First of all, what this means is the scenario I shared in my letter to US DHHS Secretary Burwell (discussed in February by The Indy Weekly) is becoming reality in some respects.  Second, NC must be very thankful that BCBSNC voluntarily decided to stay in the market within all 100 counties; otherwise, up to 450,000 citizens would have lost their health insurance and with no option of either coverage with another company or Medicaid (due to no expansion).

What this means is how imperative it is for the next President and Congress to compromise – and not engage in hyper-partisan warfare - compromise in order to enact the repairs needed to the federal law so that consumers begin to see the bending of the price curve and the slowing of the rise in health insurance premiums, and to keep the promises made by the ACA law to insurance companies who willingly chose to stay in the markets of given states.  … It’s also imperative that our next Governor and North Carolina’s legislature undo the law passed in 2013 that restricted my authority over health insurance, and give me the authority to hold health insurance premiums in check as I do for auto and homeowners insurance premiums; furthermore, that 2013 state law needs to be repealed or modified so that the NCDOI and I can be more engaged in consumer education about the ACA, and to return to our original plan of establishing a state-based health insurance exchange here.

The future of the ACA in North Carolina depends on the above.

As to your question about “any reason for optimism,” I’m by nature a “glass half-full” fellow.  Notwithstanding, NC must cast aside the hyper-partisan approach to health insurance reforms, and focus on what’s best for our people and seek to do those things that incentivize a competitive health insurance market.  

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