Connecticut Insurance Commissioner to Resign After Dust-Ups with Advocacy, Auto Body Groups

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HARTFORD, CT — Just days after a consumer advocacy group called for Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Thomas R. Sullivan to step down for approving large premium rate increases since passage of the federal health care reform law, Sullivan notified Gov. Jodi M. Rell that he will resign from the post Nov. 12.

In addition, the Auto Body Association of Connecticut had called for his ouster, saying Sullivan hurt small businesses and automobile insurance consumers in part by failing to act on claims of insurer misconduct in settling collision repair claims and siding with the insurance industry on the use of after-market parts (BestWire, Oct. 29, 2010).

Debra Korta, a spokeswoman for the insurance department, said in an e-mail that an interim commissioner has not been named and Sullivan will be taking a "tremendous position" at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"I am grateful to have served the citizens of our state, and I fully believe the Connecticut Insurance Department is better equipped to respond to our constituents today than when your current term began," Sullivan wrote in a letter to Rell.

Last week, Citizens for Economic Opportunity, comprised of advocacy groups and labor unions, called on Rell to remove Sullivan for approving rate filings that included increases up to 46.9% for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield individual market policyholders (BestWire, Oct. 26, 2010).

Sullivan opposed a bill that would have forced the insurance department to hold a public hearing on requested rate increases of 10% or more.

Rell appointed Sullivan to serve as insurance commissioner in 2007. He replaced Susan F. Cogswell, who stepped down to a deputy commissioner post (BestWire, April 4, 2007).

Sullivan previously served as senior vice president of Specialty Risk Services, an affiliate of Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. (NYSE: HIG).

Carmen Balber, director of the Washington, D.C. office of Consumer Watchdog, said in an e-mail that state insurance commissioners "are consumers' main line of defense against unjustified double-digit premium increases."

Connecticut's insurance commissioner has the most important tool to protect consumers: the power to reject insurance rate hikes, she said. "But it's not enough if the commissioner doesn't use that authority to protect consumers. Insurance companies must also be required to justify rates publicly, and consumers must have the power to challenge rate hikes when they aren't fair."

The department said among Sullivan's accomplishments were opening rate filings for public inspection and imposing a $2.1 million fine against Assurant, the largest fine in the department's history.

In the letter, Sullivan wrote that as he transitions into his post-public service life that he reviewed his employment obligations to the state "and will faithfully adhere to those obligations."

Among them are provisions that for a minimum of one year, "I will not solicit, negotiate or accept employment with any company regulated by the Connecticut Insurance Department or any company that received a contract valued at $50,000 or more where I participated in the negotiation or award of the contract."

Contact the author, Fran Matso Lysiak, senior associate editor, BestWeek at: [email protected]

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