Meet Texas's Awful Insurance Commissioner

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Eleanor Kitzman grew up in Texas and spent much of her adult life in the Carolinas. First working at a law firm in North Carolina, she soon decided to start her own auto insurance company in South Carolina when the state deregulated its auto insurance market. Kitzman saw an opportunity to cash in from this insurance company free-for-all, providing less and worse service for equal cash.

That was in 1999. Kitzman's business was successful, and in 2005 she was appointed the state insurance commissioner and sold the business. Kitzman served in this position for two years, and then lost a primary for Lt. Governor in 2010. Soon after that, Gov. Nikki Haley appointed her to the state's budget and control board.

Another job (and state) change was in store for Kitzman in 2011. In July of last year, Gov. Rick Perry appointed her Texas insurance commissioner to replace Mike Geesling.

Since then, this beneficiary and proponent of insane government deregulation has had three controversies.

1. In October, Kitzman attended an insurance company fundraiser in Irving. The fundraiser was for Gov. Nikki Haley, and Kitzman claimed she only attended the fundraiser to see the governor. “[I]f you held a gun to my head, I couldn't tell you what insurance companies were there,” Kitzman said. Doubt it.

2. In May, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Agency raised premiums by 5 percent. That wasn't enough for Kitzman. She directed the TWIA to hire a private consulting group to look into whether the agency should charge more based on the location of the customer. Unsurprisingly, the firm advised that they should.

3. Last month, Kitzman was criticized state-wide for removing an essential consumer protection backed by her predecessor which “required health plans to disclose online which medical providers were in their network and alert consumers when there was a substantial decrease in the number of contracted providers at an in-network hospital.” Removing this protection allows insurance companies to trick their customers into paying more expensive out-of-pocket medical expenses by denying them useful information. “I just don't believe that consumers, the average consumer is really going to be able to use that information in a meaningful way,” Kitzman said unbelievably of her decision. Even Republicans scolded the decision. “There are many senators, Republican and Democratic, that are concerned that she's a little too pro-insurance company,” said state Sen. Bob Deuell, a physician and Republican from Greenville.

Three weeks ago, the Dallas Morning News penned a scathing editorial titled “Regulator should be protecting consumers” criticizing Kitzman's clear pro-industry bias:

Kitzman has been on the job barely a year yet already has come under fire for pro-industry decisions. She sided with property insurers on rate hikes. Now she's shifting the burden from insurers to consumers. What part of consumer protection doesn't she get?

What we need to realize is that Kitzman isn't trying to protect consumers. She's trying, successfully, to do the bidding of the insurance companies, who she clearly has more allegiance to than the State of Texas.  

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About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it distorts almost every other issue in American politics.

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