January 03, 2017

Big Ten Update: End-of-Year Changes to Top Insurance Regulators

While Ohio made all the holiday bowl news, its Big Ten counterparts of Illinois, Indiana and Iowa have been making all the holiday news on leadership of insurance regulation. Since December 5, 2016, three Midwest states have issued statements on who will stay and who will leave their posts as state Insurance Commissioners in 2017.

Illinois: New Quarterback Announced

In Illinois, Governor Bruce Rauner announced that Department of Insurance Acting Director Anne Melissa Dowling will leave the position in January 2017. For Director Dowling’s successor, Governor Rauner will appoint Jennifer Hammer. Hammer currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy in the Illinois Governor’s Office. She has focused her career on policy and health care law, formerly working as the Policy Adviser for Healthcare and Human Services to Governor Rauner and as the Executive Director of the Healthcare Council at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. Before entering government, Hammer worked in the private sector as a defense attorney. She earned her law degree from Southern Illinois University and currently lives in Springfield, Illinois.

Under Director Dowling, Illinois has been running point on a few emerging National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) issues. Director Dowling is vice chair of the Property and Casualty Insurance Committee and chair of the Travel Insurance Working Group, while leading the Valuation of Securities Task Force effort on evaluating regulatory support for infrastructure investment. She also has been an active member on the Government Relations Leadership Council and Cybersecurity Task Force among others. So, NAIC committee assignments for Illinois in 2017 will be worth watching.

Indiana: Sticking With a Veteran Signal Caller

Ending speculation about any transition changes, Indiana Governor-elect Eric Holcomb followed the lead of his predecessor, Vice President-elect and former Indiana Governor Mike Pence, by announcing he will reappoint Department of Insurance Commissioner Stephen Robertson. Commissioner Robertson was initially appointed by Governor Mitch Daniels in 2010 and reappointed by Pence in 2013. Prior to serving as the Indiana Insurance Commissioner, he was general counsel to the Nebraska Department of Insurance. He also worked as a senior vice president at Conseco Insurance Group and served in the U.S. Army as a sergeant in the military police.

Commissioner Robertson has taken on leadership roles in the NAIC, serving as vice chair of the Midwest Zone. He also has been chair of the Market Regulation and Consumer Affairs Committee, whose mandate includes developing policy recommendations for state enforcement of the Affordable Care Act, as well as its Market Action Working Group.

Iowa: Open Roster Spot

Meanwhile, Iowa announced early in December that Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart would resign on December 23, 2016. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has since appointed Doug Ommen as Interim Insurance Commissioner. Ommen has served as the Deputy Insurance Commissioner since 2013, and he was the Missouri Department of Insurance Director from 2007 to 2008 under Governor Matt Blunt.

The interim appointment comes after Governor Branstad was selected by President-elect Donald Trump as ambassador to China. If confirmed by the Senate, the move will promote Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to Iowa Governor and allow her to appoint the next Iowa Insurance Commissioner if the vacancy remains.

Former Commissioner Gerhart’s leadership as chair of the NAIC’s Life Insurance and Annuities Committee and of the Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Working Group, along with his vocal advocacy role on key state regulatory issues, gives this spot additional national implication.

Insurance transition season isn’t over, but some of the key results are starting to come in. We wish all new, seasoned and yet-to-be-named regulators good luck in what looks to be an interesting year.

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