Is the Texas Commissioner of Insurance Too Cozy with Insurance Lobbyists?

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Insurance is big business and a lot of tax revenue for Texas, but consumers should not take a backseat.

The Texas Commissioner of Insurance is supposed to be a position that regulates the insurance industry and protects policyholders in the state.

But, is that what really happens when insurance companies are actively lobbying and spending big money to wine and dine employees of the Texas Department of Insurance?

Across the nation, insurance companies invite insurance commissioners to meetings over free meals at country clubs and other choice locations. Companies pay for their trips to company sponsored conferences at prime vacation spots, doling out to $7,500 for special privileges and access to insurance commissioners at the Insurance Regulatory Examiners Society Foundation’s summit, and creating close friend-like relationships with commissioners. The insurance companies insist they are only doing so to have to opportunity to educate insurance commissioners on the products they offer and how their company benefits consumers. However, like the Washington Post points out:

“Emails from other states also show personal relationships between regulators and insurers and their representatives, who share dinner invitations, family news and friendly sports wagers.

“It gets at the whole integrity of the process,” said Bob Hunter, a former Texas commissioner who runs the insurance program for the advocacy group Consumer Federation of America. “It raises among the public more and more doubt about the honesty of government and about government generally.”’

The close relationship itself between the insurance companies and commissioners are not what causes the doubts, however. These doubts are raised because what the public sees is the approved premium increases and rulings in the favor of these insurance companies that spend time “educating” the insurance commissioners about their benefits to the consumers.

After Being an Insurance Commissioner

Per a report from The Center for Public Integrity, most former insurance commissioners even work for these insurance companies once they have left their elected post:

“Half of the 109 insurance commissioners who have left their posts in the last decade have gone on to work for the insurance industry — many leaving before their terms expire. Just two moved into consumer advocacy.”

The independence of The Texas Commissioner of Insurance and his department is particularly important now that he is considering allowing many changes to Texas insurance policies including the use of Arbitration instead of litigation to address bad faith denials of claims.

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