After a $5 million campaign by insurance companies to defeat him, Dave Jones has been sworn in as California's fourth elected Insurance Commissioner. I was at the inauguration in Sacramento and these are my notes…
Interestingly, if not surprisingly, the insurance industry that spent all that money attacking Jones is here in full force. (Well, it's an open event…)
Controller John Chiang (an old friend of Jones from their youth in Chicago) gives a warm welcome after Jones's daughter sings to the crowd.
Jones thanks the crowd as well as former Insurance Commissioners Garamendi and Poizner and says that after a year plus of campaigning and meeting Californians who have contended with insurance nightmares, he is inspired to address the concerns of California consumers.
He sets out 3 priorities for his administration:
1. Implementation of federal health care reform
2. Protection of consumers
3. Ensuring California has a competitive insurance market
"Elections matter," Jones said. "Voters asked for an activist commissioner and I am taking immediate action on health reform."
(Note: That second sentence is a close paraphrase. Also noteworthy: a lot of people were talking about the fact that he kept referring to himself as an activist. It was hardly shocking to my activist ears, but in a Sacramento crowd I guess it was like yelling fire in a movie theater.)
Now on to the activism…
Tonight, Jones will sign an emergency action to enforce the medical loss ratio set forth in federal health reform.
Also, he is directing the Dep't of Insurance to begin developing annuity industry reforms. And he's also directing his staff to begin writing rules to address abusive practices in life insurance.
Jones announces that he is creating a new Deputy Commissioner for health insurance reform (Janice Rocco) and he is reestablishing the community services branch of the Dep't.
He alludes to creating opportunities for insurance companies to offer new insurance products, which is about the only time I saw the industry flaks smile during the speech. Though, I noted, that the auto and home insurance lobbyists seemed a little relieved that Jones's focus was on health insurance and not on them. (I'm assuming, however, that despite the emphasis on health insurance reform in the speech, the Department will be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.)
Commissioner Jones also promises to help bring new "green" insurance policies to insurance market.
And then it was handshake time. I think Commissioner Jones probably shook hands with everyone (and there were hundreds) in the hall.
Speech done, hands shaken, now the work begins. Consumer Watchdog, of course, will be watching.