The Clay Center Dispatch: Insurance Commissioner: State should be run like a business

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, who is running for governor, told those at Clay Center Lions Club that the state should be ran like he has run the office of the Kansas Insurance Commissioner.

“I come in with a business background, not a politician whatsoever -- this is my first ever statewide office,” he said. “I’m businessman. My goal is to run this office as efficiently, and productively, and responsibly for our constituents as we possibly can.”

He said his business background is what makes him stand out from all of the other candidates running for governor.

The office employs about 100 people and “innovatively managed our way down” by reducing the number of employees from 126 the first year and a half Selzer was in office. That in spite of calls and complaints from consumers and workload continuing to go up.

They did that by either not filling or combining a position with another as employees retired or left for other reasons.

“Whenever a person retires or leaves a position for another job, we always make the decision, do we need to replace this job?” Selzer said. “Do we need it? Sometimes we need half the job or three-quarters of a job, or a quarter of job. When it’s part of a job, we parse it out, and when it’s a whole job, we obviously replace person.”

Kansas is one of 12 states that elect rather than appoint its insurance commissioner. The role of this office is educate and assist consumers and advocate on their behalf. The office also regulates insurance companies and licenses 23,000 insurance agents in the state and 105,000 non-resident agents, Seltzer said. They investigate allegations of insurance fraud, of which the state gets about 800 a year.  The department also has a consumer protection division.

Selzer said Nerd Wallet ranked all 56 insurance departments for states, territories and the District of Columbia and ranked Kansas the second-highest insurance department in the nation after they had reduced personnel and after the department became more productive by asking employees how they could serve Kansans better, Selzer said.

“I’m just so proud of our people,” he said. “That’s been almost two years ago and (my employees) are still on a high in my office because somebody from the outside recognized that we are one of the highest ranked insurance departments in the entire country. We’re keeping that attitude going, always thinking about how we can be more responsive to the Kansas consumer.”

One way the department has served Kansans better is ensuring that consumers have more than one company to purchase health insurance from through the federal exchange on healthinsurance.gov. Selzer said. That’s important because competition always helps to improve coverage and keep prices down.

Selzer said his approach works so well that the state has folded in the Securities Commission and about 30 employees that regulate securities, with his department. The Securities Commissioner is appointed by the Insurance Commissioner rather than by the governor and the Securities Commission reports directly to Selzer. That has turned around a department that previously had nothing but negative reports.

Selzer said one of the biggest problems in state government is that too many politicians and constituents think about the political issue of the moment rather than trying to think out in front of the issues.

“I think it would make a huge, huge difference in everything we do in state government if we take that same approach that we’re trying to do in the insurance department -- just being thoughtful, trying to stay out of the political fray and just doing what’s best for Kansans,” Selzer said. “It’s worked out wonderfully in our little petri dish, if you will, of the insurance department.”

 

[via The Clay Center Dispatch]


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