New Insurance Commissioner

June 12, 1993

Dwight K. Bartlett III takes over the insurance commissioner's job in Maryland at a crucial time. His office has just been given new powers to rein-in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland; to cut health insurance rates if a carrier's overhead is too high; to oversee ground-breaking health-insurance coverage for small employers, and to toughen the state's scrutiny of insurance carriers with a beefed-up regulatory staff. He's the man on the hot seat.

Yet given Mr. Bartlett's considerable background in business, finance and the arcane language of actuarial statistics, Gov. William Donald Schaefer did well to find such an accomplished ** successor to the controversial John Donaho.

Mr. Donaho was fired in April for ruffling too many feathers. He dared to expose Blue Cross' considerable financial weaknesses in an attempt to force the company to get its act together. His threats of extreme regulatory action alarmed the governor and legislators. Mr. Donaho's message was on target, but he delivered his blasts with a cannon instead of a more-effective rifle.

Don't look for Mr. Bartlett to make his mark with such loud firepower. He has a reputation for taking a quiet but effective approach to actuarial and insurance problems. He's also known as astraight-arrow's straight arrow. Integrity won't be a question during Mr. Bartlett's four years in office.

Under legislation passed by the legislature, Mr. Bartlett's term is secure: his tenure isn't subject to the whim of the governor. Lawmakers also gave Mr. Bartlett another welcome form of independence: the new Maryland Insurance Administration is now a separate agency of state government. Unlike Mr. Donaho, whose work was undercut by Licensing Secretary William Fogle, Mr. Bartlett will answer directly to the governor.

And lawmakers bestowed another bonus on Mr. Bartlett: an extra $4.8 million to pay for 53 new positions. This should enable Mr. Bartlett to improve oversight of insurers and finally bring Maryland into compliance with accreditation standards set by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners before the Jan. 1 deadline.

Mr. Bartlett has headed a major, national insurance company, has run his own actuarial consulting firm and has served in the demanding job of chief actuary for the U.S. Social Security Administration. Now he's been asked to improve the effectiveness of Maryland's regulation of the insurance industry even as his regulatory powers are expanded. He's got his work cut out for him.

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