IWIF, the agency that answers to no one

No oversight: Group sells insurance to businesses

October 28, 1999

WHY is the Injured Workers Insurance Fund the only seller of insurance in Maryland not regulated by the insurance commissioner? IWIF was created by the state; its board members are appointed by the governor. Yet no regulators oversee its finances or procedures.

That's wrong, and dangerous. IWIF sells workers compensation insurance policies to any businesses seeking them. What happens if its decisions lead to losses? How would we know if irregularities existed?

At the moment, the public and state regulators are kept in the dark. That's the way the folks running IWIF like it.

Now a task force has recommended major change. It wants IWIF regulated just like any other insurer: The insurance commissioner would examine IWIF's books, review rate changes and scrutinize procedures.

Good idea. IWIF is essentially a private insurance carrier created by the state to ensure that all businesses can get workers compensation coverage. It competes directly with private carriers. Why shouldn't it have the same oversight as everyone else?

There are precedents. The Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (MAIF) was set up by the legislature to provide car insurance for high-risk drivers. Its actions are fully regulated by the insurance commissioner. The Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society was established by the legislature to make sure Maryland doctors could buy malpractice insurance. It, too, is regulated by the insurance commissioner.

In light of recent IWIF controversies, other task force proposals don't seem so smart. The company should not be exempt from the state's open meetings law, the public records law, state ethics laws and legislative audits. That's unacceptable. Locking the doors and shuttering the windows isn't the way to win public confidence.

Too many unanswered questions exist about the way this group operates to let it conduct its business in secret.

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