Glendening names nine to task force for probe of IWIF

Review of insurance fund `timely,' governor says

June 03, 1999|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

Following through on an announcement made more than three months ago, Gov. Parris N. Glendening named nine members yesterday to a newly created task force charged with making "a thorough examination" of the state Injured Workers Insurance Fund.

Named to the panel were several current and former customers of the state-created insurance agency, former state legislators and three current state officials, including state Insurance Commissioner Steven B. Larsen. He would say only that he was "looking forward" to the review.

IWIF, run by a seven-member board named by the governor, sells workers compensation insurance to employers across the state and acts as an administrator of workers compensation claims for state employees.

Though it competes with private insurance companies, IWIF is not subject to regulation by the state Insurance Administration, and it is exempt from taxes paid by private companies on insurance premiums.

In addition to Larsen, task force appointees are state Budget Secretary Frederick W. Puddester, Glendening's deputy chief of staff Karen Johnson, Sarian S. Bowma of Anne Arundel County, former state Sens. John W. "Jack" Derr of Frederick County, Thomas H. Maddux of Baltimore County, Michael C.A. McPherson of Howard County, Randolph B. Rosencrantz of Baltimore and Robert B. Schaftel of Baltimore County.

Still to be named to the panel are four appointees to be selected by Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, a Prince George's Democrat, and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr, an Allegany Democrat.

Under the governor's order, the task force is required to make a preliminary report by Nov. 1 and a final report by June 30, 2000.

Stating that a review of IWIF was "timely and appropriate," Glendening said in a statement, "We want to be absolutely certain that taxpayers' and ratepayers' dollars are being spent wisely."

The executive order creating the task force notes "recent concerns regarding procurement and management practices, as well as board oversight." It also specifies that the appointees should include representatives of insured small businesses.

Other issues to be examined by the panel include the overall mission of the fund, its tax-exempt status, agents' commissions, and its underwriting practices.

Glendening's announcement in February that he would create the task force effectively forestalled efforts by some members of the General Assembly to put new controls on the agency. IWIF officials told legislators any changes would be "premature" and that they should await the task force report.

Last week, Glendening appointed two new members to the board that oversees IWIF. Replaced after 10 years of service to the agency was Louise Keelty of Baltimore County. Keelty was one of the first to raise questions about a $21 million, no-bid contract for managed health care services awarded by IWIF in 1996 to Statutory Benefits Management Corp. of Baltimore. Keelty also had raised questions about IWIF's advertising expenses and its compliance with standards for contracting with businesses owned by minorities or women.

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