Here’s a look at what happened in the nine PIA Western Alliance states — Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington — and we start with the Golden State.
California: California’s Proposition 45 would have given the state’s insurance commissioner the power to review rate increases for health insurers and the power to sue insurers for health insurance plan changes. Insurers pushed for a no vote. They had visions of billions spent defending insurance commissioner lawsuits and to argue rate increases. Insurers said all this does is drive rates up farther.
Neil Crosby of the California Association of Health Underwriters said the purpose of California’s ObamaCare exchange is to keep rates down. “This proposition isn’t giving that a chance to work,” he said.
He also worried that more control of insurance rates by the commissioner could mean less money spent on providers and the distribution of product. Cuts in agent commissions were also in there somewhere.
The people bought all arguments and voted the measure down.
Voters also said no to increasing medical malpractice awards. Proposition 46 would have raised the $250,000 cap on pain and suffering to $1 million or more. It also had a requirement that doctors working in hospitals do drug and alcohol testing. The measure also set up a statewide database to track painkiller prescriptions.
Those costs — of course — all passed onto consumers. Worries about increased lawsuits and higher premiums presented by insurance groups and others got a no vote on that one, too.
Oregon: Weekly Industry News received much of the information for this part of the report from Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) Area Vice President Kenton Brine.
Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber was reelected in spite of allegations of impropriety by his fiancé who has an office in Kitzhaber’s office and is accused of using the governor’s office and political connections to build her business. Cylvia Hayes — it was revealed a month or so before the election — is alleged to have married an immigrant for $5,000 so he could legally become a U.S. citizen and for being involved in a pot growing business in Washington State.
Republicans didn’t fare well in the state Legislature and Democrats saw increases in members in both the House and Senate and are in firm control of both houses.
Oregon voters passed a measure to legalize personal recreational use of marijuana.
The people did vote down a measure that had the state issuing a driver’s license and driving privileges without having lawful proof of residence. It is something Kitzhaber wanted to implement but opponents of the idea got it placed on the ballot and it was soundly defeated.
Washington: PIA Washington lobbyist Mel Sorensen and Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) Area Vice President Kenton Brine sent reports to Weekly Industry News. This is an edited version of what they sent.
Sorensen said Republicans will control the Washington State Senate with an outright majority of their own (25 Republicans). They will likely be joined by one Democrat, as Sen. Tim Sheldon appears to have won reelection. Although a Democrat, for the last two years Sen. Sheldon has caucused with Senate Republicans, helping to forge a 26-member Coalition Majority.
In the House, it appears that Republicans have picked up as many as four seats. For the last two years, Democrats have controlled the House on a 55-43 majority.
However, Sorensen said “it could be more than two weeks before final results are known in close races. That said, for most races the trends are well-set, and it will be very difficult for remaining ballots to change those trends. In the Senate, virtually all of the races appear to be well-set, with margins that are likely hold up as additional ballots are counted.”
Brine wrote, “For P&C insurers, the election results likely mean there will be changes to the chairmanship and makeup of the Senate Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee, which has been chaired for the past two years by Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Mountlake Terrace). Hobbs won re-election, but is not a member of the coalition caucus. Possible replacements for Hobbs include Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver), who has served for the past two years as the committee's Ranking Republican.”
As for the House, Brine said, “For P&C insurers, it is too early to predict how the results will impact committees or chairmanships, though there is no current reason to expect that Rep. Steve Kirby (D-Tacoma), who easily won re-election, will leave his chairmanship of the House Business & Financial Services Committee.”
Montana: Republican Steve Daines defeated Amanda Curtis for the Montana Senate for a seat once held by Max Baucus. Lt. Governor John Walsh was holding down that position.
Republican Steve Daines was reelected to the U.S. House.
No insurance concerns were on the ballot.
Idaho: This came to Weekly Industry News from Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) Area Vice President Kenton Brine.
Governor Butch Otter was — to no one’s surprise — was elected to a third term. Republican Brad Little got a second term as Lt. Governor. Both chambers of the Legislature are still dominated by Republicans.
“For insurers, not much about the Idaho political and policy landscape has changed. With the re-election of Gov. Otter, it appears likely that appointed Insurance Director Bill Deal will remain on the job. (Though, there have been persistent rumors that Otter plans to retire mid-way through his term, which would hand the reins over to Lt. Governor Brad Little, at least until the next election. Should that occur, speculation suggests there may be changes in the administration, but it is only speculation at this time.) While some changes are inevitable — such as a new House Business Committee chair — the overall environment for insurance-related legislation will continue to provide some opportunities and some challenges, depending on the issues,” Brine wrote.
Alaska: Weekly Industry News received much of this information from Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) Area Vice President Kenton Brine.
At the time Weekly Industry News is being written the race between former Republican-turned-Independent challenger Bill Walker and Governor Sean Parnell is too close to call. But with 97% of the votes counted, it is assumed Walker will be Alaska’s new governor.
As for insurance issues, Brine said, “A Walker victory would raise questions about continuity at the state Insurance Division, whose current appointed director, Lori Wing-Heier, has been on the job less than a year, and has expressed interest in supporting insurance industry-sponsored credit scoring legislation as well as regulatory modernization proposals long sought by the industry.”
The Republicans continue to have the majority of both houses of the Legislature.
The voters also followed Oregon in this election and Colorado and Washington in the last, and made personal use of marijuana legal.
New Mexico: The ballot had nothing of insurance concern. Susana Martinez — a Republican — was reelected governor.
Arizona: The state has a new governor. Republican Doug Ducey won the governorship over Democrat Fred DuVal.
Arizona’s Proposition 122 is the only potential insurance impact. The voters said yes to the proposition and it allows Arizona to withhold money and staffing for any federal program deemed by the Legislature or the people to be unconstitutional.
Nevada: State voters reelected Republican Governor Brian Sandoval with 70% of the vote. The huge victory for Sandoval was accompanied by votes that gained him a Republican majority in both houses of the Legislature.
Also on the ballot and soundly defeated was a 2% margins tax. It was a levy that impacted businesses with $1 million or more in annual revenue. The funds would have been earmarked to go to education.
Business groups statewide opposed the measure.
Sources: PIA Washington, PCI, Insurance Business America