O'Reilly's Folly

April 02, 1993

State Sen. Thomas P. O'Reilly should be ashamed of what he tried to do. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he attempted to use his position to force the state insurance commissioner to approve a plan that would benefit a political and personal friend. In the process, Mr. O'Reilly jeopardized crucial legislation needed to keep insurance carriers headquartered in Maryland. He also is dragging his feet on another vital bill giving the insurance commissioner oversight power over Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland.

These actions, reported by John W. Frece in The Sun, bring discredit to Mr. O'Reilly, the Maryland Senate and the General Assembly. His efforts -- aimed at pressuring Insurance Commissioner John Donaho to approve a Blue Cross plan to set up a network of physicians using InforMed, a firm that analyzes medical charges -- go beyond the pale. Whatever the merits of this proposal, which appear to be substantial, the senator has no business trying to influence a regulator's decision. And he certainly shouldn't be carrying water for InforMed's lobbyist, Gerard E. Evans.

Mr. O'Reilly and Mr. Evans have long personal and political ties in Prince George's County. But that doesn't mean Mr. O'Reilly should use his position of influence to promote Mr. Evans' client's case with regulators.

There was no excuse for Mr. O'Reilly to shelve a bill that would assure accreditation of Maryland's commercial insurance industry. This bill is a necessity if Maryland wants to keep home-grown insurers, like USF&G and GEICO. Yet it languished for months in the O'Reilly committee as the senator badgered the insurance commissioner to gain approval of the InforMed plan.

Another important bill, tightening standards on Blue Cross and increasing the insurance commissioner's powers, is also tied up in Mr. O'Reilly's committee. Coincidence? We doubt it. This is a clear-cut case of a senator trying to force a favorable regulatory decision for a vested interest by holding up passage of crucial legislation.

We are confident Mr. O'Reilly will now see the folly of his actions and remove himself from the InforMed issue. We also believe he now will use his influence to help both the insurance accreditation bill and the Blue Cross oversight bill win Senate passage. Mr. O'Reilly's earlier sins shouldn't be repeated. It's time to repent.

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