Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wayne's White House Adventure Today: President Publicly Thanks Goodwin For Historic Insurance Refunds

Wayne Goodwin, North Carolina's Insurance Commissioner, had quite the adventure on September 22.

On the heels of his joint announcement with Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Brad Wilson two days ago, the state insurance chief responded to a request from the White House to travel to Washington, D.C., to discuss the $155.8 Million in refunds to 215,000 North Carolinians and the additional savings of $14 Million in health insurance rate reductions.

While heading into the neighboring Eisenhower Executive Office Building, he was surprised to be asked to participate in a press briefing with President Obama as a direct result of the refund news.

Goodwin also briefed approximately 35 other states' insurance commissioners on how BCBSNC and he accomplished their agreement.

Further, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius - former Kansas insurance commissioner and Governor - praised Goodwin and North Carolina for such great news for Tar Heel consumers. For the occasion she asked him to sit near the front of the President's conference room.

Goodwin's most excellent adventure concluded as he was whisked to the West Wing of the White House, where he then proceeded to provide a press briefing to a bevy of national reporters and TV cameras. Coverage appeared in multiple national media outlets and various political pundit blogs, etc.

The Raleigh News & Observer published an article about the day's activity. Entitled "Goodwin Basks in Spotlight of White House," reporter Alan Wolfe wrote:
Thanks to "providential" timing, N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin was the center of attention at the White House today.

During a meeting of state insurance commissioners and Obama administration officials, the biggest buzz was Monday's news of Goodwin's agreement with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. The health insurer plans to refund customers $155.8 million and raise rates less than expected.

President Obama mentioned it several times as an example of the federal health overhaul spurring positive results for consumers. He also thanked Goodwin for his work with Blue Cross and told the group: "Well done, Wayne."

"I've met presidents before, but I've never been singled out by first name at the White House," Goodwin said by phone from the Washington airport.

"It's been a pretty good week for a farm boy from Hamlet," he added. "It was thrilling, informative and surreal all at the same time

Goodwin, who isn't up for reelection until 2012, said the timing of Monday's announcement with Blue Cross was coincidental with the White House event to mark the six months since the health reform law passed.
The Raleigh article continued:
"The timing was just providential. I'm just proud that North Carolina and Blue Cross both were recognized as leaders in protecting consumers."

Goodwin also held a press briefing on the steps outside the West Wing this afternoon. Insurance commissioners from other states continue to ask him how he orchestrated the deal with Blue Cross and whether they can negotiate similar agreements.

"This is a great win for consumers and for state-based regulation," Goodwin said.
Goodwin's hometown newspaper, the Richmond County Daily Journal, had this to say:

"(Today) is the next major benchmark on health care reform implementation, and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners was asked to meet with the president and his cabinet members to discuss it,” Goodwin said. “This was a bi-partisan effort, and I was able to voice some of my concerns about how important it is maintain the role of the states in regulating insurance for the consumers of America.”

Wednesday’s White House meeting came on the heels of an announcement Monday Goodwin and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina reached an agreement to refund $155.8 million to more than 215,000 individual policyholders in the state.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Goodwin said Obama lauded the effort and referred to Goodwin in a familiar tone.

“Wayne, well done,” Goodwin quoted the president.

CNN referenced Insurance Commissioner Goodwin in its news coverage that evening, saying:
... Some noted that meeting timelines for changes in the legislation would cost states significant resources, while the commissioner from North Carolina cited a benefit. Policies carrying excess contract reserves have been renegotiated at lower rates, bringing cost savings to participants, said the official, Wayne Goodwin.
The refund is a result of the White House’s health care reform, the Affordable Care Act of 2010, and is equivalent to more than 1.5 months of premiums. For the average policyholder, this means about $690.
That's not only quite a pleasant Christmas present and economic stimulus for North Carolinians, but significant enough to prompt an excellent White House adventure for this elected state insurance regulator!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin: "Strong Encouragement", Cooperation Led to Historic, Huge NC Health Insurance Refund

North Carolina's state Commissioner of Insurance, Wayne Goodwin, today held a major press conference at his Raleigh office.

Joining him at the surprise press conference was Brad Wilson, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Goodwin announced that expert actuaries in his office had discovered and determined, in the course of their regulation of the insurance company, that the federal Affordable Care Act freed up $155.8 million in contract reserves for return to policyholders.
"I strongly encouraged Blue Cross to refund all of the money back to policyholders and, after very thorough and rigorous review and negotiations, the company agreed. I commend Mr. Wilson and the BCBSNC Board of Directors for agreeing with this outcome and also the Department's proposal to reduce the rate filing Blue Cross Blue Shield had made," said Insurance Commissioner Goodwin.
He and Wilson described the day's revelations a "win-win" for policyholders and all involved.

For more information, go to the official press release from North Carolina's Department of Insurance. In part, it said:
The refunds will be issued by the end of the year to policyholders who had Blue Advantage or Blue Options HSA for Individuals policies in force as of March 23, 2010, the date the federal law was enacted. Refunds will be proportional to premiums paid and will be equivalent to more than 1.5 months of premiums. Customers may receive lower or higher amounts depending on their specific premium rates. For example, for an average policyholder's monthly premium of about $380, the refund would be approximately $690.

"I'm pleased that the Department and Blue Cross were able to identify a way for $155.8 million to go back into consumers' wallets," said Commissioner Goodwin. "I'm also glad that we were able to negotiate a lower-than-requested rate adjustment that will save $14.5 million in future premiums for policyholders."
Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin later made it clear that but for this cooperation and decision reached by the insurer and the state agency, there would have been at least two court cases, the result of which would have certainly delayed by years any refund at all.
"Having this refund now is the right thing to do now. Policyholders and households need these significant refunds without any delay," said Goodwin. "I believe our work makes for quite an economic stimulus for the State - $155.8 million is nothing to sneeze at and will help families during the upcoming holiday season and end-of-year bills coming due for hundreds of thousands of Tar Heel consumers."
WUNC Public Radio, State Government Radio, TimeWarner News 14, the Progressive Pulse Blog of NC Policy Watch, the News & Observer, WTVD-Channel 11, WRAL-TV and other media provided various viewspoints throughout the day.

For publication on September 21, USA TODAY reported on another point made by Insurance Commissioner Goodwin:
"I hope other state insurance regulators across the country look into whether these same excess contract reserves exist in the holdings of health insurance companies doing business in their states," he said. "Whether $1 or an historic amount like $155.8 million as in North Carolina, perhaps consumers and policyholders in other states are due refunds, too," Goodwin posited.
And as USA TODAY reported above, "Steve Larsen, who heads insurance oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said there may be others. "I really do think there may be a bigger issue at work here," he said."

North Carolina's insurance chief will ask the 2011 General Assembly for greater regulatory authority regarding health insurance.
"As our elected state Insurance Commissioner,I will continue fighting for stronger consumer protections ... Having these additions tools reinforce the value of state-based insurance regulation over purely federal regulation," concluded Goodwin.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Insurance Commissioner Goodwin: Allstate to Refund $680,000 to Certain Drivers

More than 1,800 North Carolina automobile drivers insured by Allstate will receive refunds totalling $680,000, announced state Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin.

"My expert staff at the Department of Insurance received a complaint from an insured driver and, after digging into the problem very diligently, determined that she was due a refund. Then we pursued our investigation even further and discovered that Allstate had made the same mistake elsewhere. As a result, more than three-quarters of a million dollars will be distributed back to 1,803 drivers in rebates averaging $378 each. Having a state-based insurance regulator and a top-notch investigative team are the cause of this big win for consumers," said Commissioner of Insurance Goodwin.
For further details, go here, here, here, and here.

During the first half of Goodwin's first term, North Carolina consumers have saved more than $645 million due to insurance cuts and refunds.

To contact the Department about your insurance policy questions or any other matter, then call toll-free 800-546-5664 or 919-733-3058 in the Raleigh area.