Friday, April 30, 2010

Goodwin, Price & Etheridge Address NC Black Leadership Summit on Health Insurance Reform

Congressman David Price, Congressman Bob Etheridge, and NC Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin participated in a special panel yesterday about the newly-enacted health insurance reform law.

Appearing at the request of The Alliance of Black Elected Officials, the state officials each gave a 10-minute opening statement and then took questions from the audience at The Black Summit 2010.

The federal lawmakers addressed the new law from their point-of-view, expressing the high points of the historic legislation and why they voted in favor of it.

Congressman Price spoke about several key provisions, including how unlike recent programs in the prior Bush administration that this one is paid for as it goes (also known as "Pay-Go").

Congressman Etheridge answered a question about why the health care reform bill passed now as contrasted to any other prior time. To that end, the Lillingon lawmaker gave a brief history lesson: Etheridge explained how Republican President Teddy Roosevelt had first proposed universal health insurance approximately over 100 years ago, and how time and time again the effort in various incarnations failed during the administrations of FDR, Truman, Nixon and Clinton. Unlike when Clinton tried, President Obama was a duly-elected President with a true majority vote of the persons voting, the first Democrat in 44 years to have that accomplishment. "Elections do matter, and President Obama had a mandate," said Etheridge.

NC Insurance Commissioner Goodwin used his time to address matters from a different angle: He focused on how he, the Department of Insurance, and the State will be implementing the new law.
"There are some very tight deadlines in place, and I'm going to do everything possible to make sure that North Carolina meets those deadlines so as many citizens as possible gain the benefits of health insurance and the actual savings in their family budgets," said Commissioner Goodwin. "If North Carolina's officials take the lead on this issue, then it prevents the federal government from stepping in and running the insurance exchanges and the high risk insurance pool and other things itself."
In some instances the "magic date" is September 23, 2010, and in others it is in 2013 and 2014.

Regardless, state lawmakers and other North Carolina officials will be deliberating upon and taking action on various components of the new health insurance law in 2010, 2011, 2012, and in 2013.

Insurance Commissioner Goodwin also reported how internally within the Department there are weekly and bi-weekly planning meetings, and that there are frequent implementation sessions with the Governor's office, legislative and executive branch leaders, and state insurance regulators across the country.
"Because of twin issues over the last eighteen months involving health insurance reforms and needed consumer financial protections in the banking and securities industries, my Department and I have had more interaction with our Congressional delegation than all of my Insurance Commissioner predecessors combined."
Before the panel discussion came to a close, Goodwin stressed how to watch out for insurance fraud from unscrupulous persons who may try to take advantage of persons during this transitional period. "If something sounds too good to be true, then - guess what? - it probably is," Goodwin said, regarding circumstances if purported insurance agents or fake companies try to hawk products labeled "Obamacare" or other fictitious services. He referenced the audience to for additional tips and answers to frequently asked questions.

The event took place at the Crabtree Marriott Hotel in Raleigh.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Commissioner of Baseball? Goodwin Throws Pitch for Kinston Indians

Kicks off National Safe Kids Week, April 25-May 1

North Carolina's Commissioner of Insurance, Wayne Goodwin, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Sunday's Kinston Indians game to start this state's observance of National Safe Kids Week.

A baseball fan since his Little League and Babe Ruth League days in Hamlet and one time considered for a baseball scholarship, Goodwin took to the mound at the invitation of Safe Kids of Lenoir County in conjunction with Safe Kids North Carolina in its kick-off of National Safe Kids Week, which runs from April 25 through May 1.

The reason for this special week is to highlight the fact that children ages 5 to 14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries in this country according to statistics from Safe Kids USA. National Safe Kids Week marks the beginning of "trauma season," and Safe Kids coalitions will hold events statewide to educate kids, parents and caregivers about the best ways to keep kids safe both on and off the court.

"Anytime we can educate young people and their parents about injury prevention is a good thing," said Goodwin. (The Insurance Commissioner serves as chairman of the state organization.)

"More than 30 million kids play sports every year in our country, and on average 3.5 million of these kids are treated for sports-related injuries in hospitals, clinics and emergency rooms annually," said Insurance Commissioner and Safe Kids North Carolina Chair Wayne Goodwin.
"As a parent myself, I want to remind other parents in North Carolina that unintentional injuries remain the leading killer of kids; if there's a silver lining to this scary fact, it's that the majority of these injuries and deaths are preventable."
During the week before his first appearance at historic Grainger Stadium in Kinston, the Commissioner practiced his pitching in Raleigh with his Assistant Commissioner and Department webmaster, diligently throwing a baseball on Halifax Mall adjacent to the Department of Insurance. Why the practice?
"Well, the worst thing that could happen is for my pitch to bounce before crossing the plate! But, you know, my pitch at the Indians game was low and outside. It wasn't a strike, but it didn't bounce. Besides, even President Obama bounced his pitch at the Washington Nationals ballgame several weeks ago, so I feel a sense of satisfaction and no embarrassment," said Insurance Commissioner Goodwin.
As for the ballgame? The K-Tribe defeated the Myrtle Beach Pelicans 15-2, most notably with six home runs. Contributing significantly to Kinston's win: Goodwin didn't pitch the regular game!

The Commissioner is probably better off doing the "action hero" stuff instead of a baseball career, according to a News & Observer report last year.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Goodwin Visits Harnett, Wake, and Mecklenburg: Speaks on Consumer Protection and Civil Discourse

During the past week Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin visited with hundreds of voters in three more counties.

In Harnett, Wake and Mecklenburg Counties he updated audiences about the good news and good work of their Department of Insurance. He focused on how he and his team have saved consumers statewide more than $650 million during his short 18 months in office already.

Goodwin also expressed his frustration and concerns about the level of uncivil political discourse.

"Leadership means making tough decisions, decisions that are not always 100% popular but are in the best, long-term interests of this State and nation," said Commissioner Goodwin. "Leadership is not exhibited by those who rant, rave and incite folks with misinformation, and who in many instances are mere exorbitantly-paid entertainers. You know them - Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, and Hannity."
As in other counties across North Carolina the Commissioner is asked why he is so active on the stump when he is not even on the ballot this year or even next year.
"Public speaking is a large part of my job, I enjoy meeting people and answering questions and trying to solve problems. It's part of my belief in transparency in government, and public access to their elected public servants. And, frankly, it always bothers me when some elected officials only make themselves available in election years, with less frequency than Punxatawny Phil on Groundhogs Day."
Unlike Phil, Goodwin sightings continue every month in eastern, central and western North Carolina - just look for a stump and he's on it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You've Got Questions, We've Got Answers: A Statewide Op-Ed from Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin About the Health Insurance Reform Law

Many consumers across North Carolina have questions about what the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009, or the health care reform bill, means to their lives and their specific circumstances.

While the N.C. Department of Insurance and other involved agencies are making headway in sorting through the countless details and interpretations included in the health care reform bill, there are still a lot of unknowns.

I wanted to tackle some of the most frequently asked questions that my staff in the Consumer Services Division has received and provide the answers that we know right now. In many cases, the most asked-about issues are also the most immediate changes to be implemented.
The most common inquiry is about the bill's complete elimination of pre-existing conditions for all plans. For children younger than 19, this change will go into effect for plan years beginning on or after Sept. 23, which is six months after enactment. For adults, final implementation won't occur until 2014, but the reform bill established immediate access to health insurance through the establishment of health insurance high-risk pools. States must launch these insurance pools within 90 days.

In North Carolina, we already have a health insurance high-risk pool, called Inclusive Health, that offers coverage to North Carolinians who have medical conditions that prevent them from finding affordable insurance coverage through the traditional market. If you have a pre-existing condition and don't have health insurance, or if you have questions about the high-risk pools, call Inclusive Health for more information at (866) 665-2117, or go to

We've also heard that consumers are worried they will be forced to give up their existing health insurance plans. This is not the case. If you are satisfied with the coverage you currently have, you do not have to switch plans or make any changes.

Another common question focuses on the extension of adult dependent coverage, which also goes into effect for plan years beginning on or after Sept. 23. Right now, we know that dependent adult children age 26 or younger can be added to their parents' group plan, as long as the existing plan allows for dependent coverage. There is still some guidance needed from the federal government on who exactly qualifies as a dependent and the definition of "plan year" for individual policies.

Beware of scams

Unfortunately, we've also heard of increased health insurance scams, some that were problems before health care reform and some that are new. Consumers need to be on alert so they don't fall victim to unscrupulous scam artists or buy insurance products they don't understand. Be on the lookout for these red flags:

Unlicensed agents going door-to-door selling "ObamaCare" insurance policies or claiming there is a limited open-enrollment period to buy health insurance. Some of these scam artists have even set up bogus toll-free numbers to sell policies. While the reform bill is making a lot of changes, there are no changes that require your immediate action and no immediate deadlines or limited enrollment periods to follow.

Health care discount cards. These discount cards are not insurance and generally do not process or pay medical claims. Instead, cardholders are responsible for paying their health care providers, supposedly being entitled to a discount off of the providers' regular fees. Discount plans often exaggerate the potential savings, and not all providers accept or honor these cards.

Fake insurance companies that are not licensed by the N.C. Department of Insurance will collect premiums and then close down without paying claims. Fake health insurance is typically sold at unusually low rates by companies that do not have the funds or intent to pay all "covered" claims. These fraudulent schemes are often advertised and marketed through Web sites, telemarketing calls and unsolicited "blast faxes."

Required membership in questionable associations. Many membership associations offer their members various insurance benefits, including health insurance. Unfortunately, some associations may appear legitimate but exist mainly to profit (by collecting membership dues) from consumers who need health insurance. A consumer shopping for individual insurance might actually be required to join an association while applying for the insurance. Sometimes the dues and premiums are charged separately; however, sometimes the dues and health insurance premiums are bundled into a single lump-sum "membership cost." This makes it difficult to know how much you're paying for the insurance versus the association membership.

A good rule of thumb when purchasing any type of insurance is to confirm that the insurance company, agent and product are licensed or approved through the N.C. Department of Insurance and in good standing
; you also should read all materials carefully before you buy. A quick call to our Consumer Helpline can save you a lot of time, trouble and money. To confirm your insurance before you buy, call (800) 546-5664.

Again, there are many changes that will be implemented in the coming months and years, but consumers need to realize that no changes made by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009 will require immediate action or changes on their part. If you have any questions about the health care reform bill or you encounter suspicious or potentially fraudulent activity, I encourage you to call the Department of Insurance's Consumer Helpline at (800) 546-5664. You also can visit the department's website,, for insurance information and ongoing updates about the health care reform bill.

Fully implementing the health care reform bill will take several years, and I want you to know I will make consumer education and public awareness a priority as more information and updates are available.

* * * *

Wayne Goodwin is North Carolina insurance commissioner.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Insurance Commissioner Goodwin Rallies Duplin County Democrats During Eastern NC Visit

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin was the keynote speaker for the Duplin County Democratic Party county convention on April 12 in Kenansville.

Appearing in the historic county courthouse, Goodwin informed and inspired and regaled with humorous anecdotes as he spoke not only about his official duties but the civic obligations every voter has.

"We need to tune in to what's going on around us, turn up the volume, and turn out the vote," said Goodwin, a member of North Carolina's Council of State.
State Representative Russell Tucker introduced the speaker to the group of eastern North Carolina Democrats.

Also attending were State Senator Charlie Albertson, Districy Attorney Dewey Hudson, and other local officials and a diverse group of citizens.

As he concluded his remarks, Goodwin said "I was going to say I've got to get 'On the Road Again' back up to Raleigh but seeing how Willie Nelson fared in this county the last time he was here, I'd better not!" This aside to the classic Nelson song was a reference to a very recent event where renowned country singer Willie Nelson's band was charged with possession of marijuana and moonshine while in Duplin County for a concert. The reference appeared to evoke the most laughter from District Attorney Hudson, who is prosecuting the case.

Commissioner Goodwin Leads National Discussion of Readability Standards for Insurance Policies

NAIC public hearing explores the issue of the use of consumer-friendly, "plain language" in insurance policies

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin announced his participation in the national discussion surrounding the need for insurance policies - particularly health insurance policies - to use plain, more consumer-friendly language.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) held a public hearing in mid-March made up of three panels of insurance regulators, NAIC consumer representatives and insurance industry representatives which provided testimony and presentations at the hearing. In his role as the chair of the Consumer Connections Working Group, Commissioner Goodwin led the public hearing and discussion in Denver.
"Today's hearing provides an important starting point for discussion on the issue of insurance contract readability standards," said Commissioner Goodwin. "The current economic downturn makes it increasingly important that consumers are able to understand their insurance policies so they are not at a financial disadvantage and can make well-informed decisions about their insurance needs."
The readability hearing focused on the following issues:

To which lines of insurance should readability standards apply?

Should an entire insurance policy be required to be scored?

Should defined terms in a policy be included in the scoring process?

Should the readability standard score continue to be the current Flesch Reading Ease Score (a number from 0 to 100) or should it be changed to another measure (such as the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level)?

What other logistical questions are states likely to encounter if they move forward to revise their standards?
In addition to chairing the NAIC Consumer Connections Working Group, Commissioner Goodwin serves on the Consumer Participation Board of Trustees as one of only five state insurance regulators represented.

Goodwin's participation in these groups is another example of his Good Government Initiative, which strives to increase transparency, access and customer service in state government. Other Good Government Initiative projects of Goodwin's include the Department's online suggestion box, added Web presence through social media sites and a mobile Web site, as well as a general increase in consumer outreach and public availability.

Friday, April 2, 2010

State Representative Melanie Wade Goodwin Climbs Higher in Legislative Rankings!

Here's the link to the news story, based on the latest report from the NC Center for Public Policy. Below is an excerpt from the Richmond County Daily Journal reporting on her additional leap of eight more spots to the 23rd slot among 120 House members:

Goodwin, who is not seeking a fourth term in the upcoming election, said she was especially honored with her rise in rankings since she is not seeking reelection.

“My colleagues have given me quite an honor by ranking me this high,” she said Friday.

During her three terms in the legislature, she said she feels her work as the chairwoman of the Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform has had the most impact.

“We’ve made some significant changes in the campaign finance laws to increase transparency in campaign reporting and increase the public’s confidence in their elected representatives ability to account for their campaign funds,” Goodwin said.
The rankings are no surprise, really, because everyone who has had the chance to work with Goodwin and Senator Bill Purcell knows that they are top-shelf, ultra-responsive, excellent public servants. North Carolina's finest they are.