Texas Insurance Commissioner May Be Rejected by Senate
Texas Insurance Commissioner, Eleanor Kitzman, may not be able to get Senate confirmation needed to keep her job. With enough votes to defeat her nomination, Democrats question her credentials. She was appointed by Governor Rick Perry in 2011 between legislative sessions. She will go through a formal confirmation process with the Senate’s Nominations Committee next month. Then the Senate will vote on keeping her: she’ll need two-thirds of the votes to stay.
Her leadership and past ties to the insurance industry have been questioned by several Democrats, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Republican Senator Bob Deuell said that Kitzman, “has ignored a lot of rules.” He said, “I don’t think voters are there to confirm her.
Kitzman told reporters that she wants to talk to each senator to correct any misunderstandings. However, she didn’t give any information as to what the misunderstandings could be. She said, “I’m aware there are some members that have a view about certain things. And some of those views may be pretty entrenched. Others are, I think, based on – let’s say – less than the whole story on some things. And I just want to give them an opportunity to, like I say, have complete information and make an informed decision.”
Democratic Senator Kirk Watson said that she didn’t protect consumers enough and that she has “serious problems.” In a letter wrote earlier this year, Democratic Senator Wendy Davis criticized Kitzman for removing a rule that would require insurers to warn patients in advance about added out-of-pocket expenses for services provided out of network.
Democratic Senator John Whitmire, alleged that Kitzman is bound to consultants because the fees she paid to a New York firm are more than $1.5 million. Whitmire told Kitzman at a Senate Finance Committee hearing earlier in February, “I just think you’ve kind of, really lost control. Or maybe you’re very much in control of the use of consultants.”
Kitzma claims she has no bias toward the insurance industry. She said, “If you look at everything that has been done, you can’t say that there’s any evidence that I made a decision because I have some relationship with or bias toward the industry. That’s not how I do things.”
Despite what senators think about her performance, she has a few supporters. The spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas, Mark Hanna, said that a lot of people in the insurance industry think she’s done a good job. They credit her with facing the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) customers, for investigating insurance fraud in Harris and Bexar counties, and for organizing a conference on hail last year.