Insurance complaints get increased attention

Maryland Watch

January 29, 1998

The Maryland Insurance Administration announced yesterday a beefed-up consumer complaints department under the direction of a new associate commissioner.

Also, the administration announced a task force to review whether it can regulate insurance companies more efficiently.

Insurance Commissioner Steven B. Larsen said Joy Hachette, a former assistant attorney general, has been appointed to the new post of associate commissioner for consumer complaints.

The department is budgeting $150,000 for a new computer system. The system, to be operational in the spring, will track complaints and help regulators identify trends.

In the past, Larsen said, insurers had "little incentive to police their own conduct," since, even if a claim was denied improperly, regulators would simply direct that the claim be paid.

The law does provide for fines for arbitrary claim denials, Larsen said.

"With the shift to managed care," said Larsen, "just as solvency was the core regulatory mission of insurance departments in the early 1990s, accountability is the next regulatory watchword."

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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