Name as it appears on the ballot: Wayne Goodwin
Party Affiliation: Democratic Party
Campaign Website: waynegoodwin.org
Occupation & Employer: Attorney, former N.C. Insurance Commissioner
1) Please tell us what in your record as a public official or private citizen demonstrates your ability to be an effective Commissioner of Insurance? These might include career or community service—please be specific.
What demonstrates my ability to be an effective Insurance Commissioner is my life of public service fighting against greedy insurance companies and fighting fraud, representing consumers in the courtroom, in legislative committees as a State legislator, and then in rate hearings as the Insurance Commissioner hearing officer – most especially during my 2 terms (8 years) as North Carolina’s elected Commissioner of Insurance.
I saved North Carolina families $2.4+ Billion based on rate cuts, refunds, rebates, and restitution that I ordered as Insurance Commissioner.
I ordered $206 Million in refunds directly back to North Carolina households – a number not matched by anyone else in this race.
North Caroline drivers enjoyed the lowest average auto insurance premiums in the USA – something that had not happened before and hasn’t happened since I was last Insurance Commissioner. We reached that result based on my analysis of the facts, the actuarial exam reports, the law, and what was fairest to consumers; more specifically, I rolled back rates to what they were in 2006, then froze them for three years (which eventually turned into a 8-year auto insurance rate freeze on my watch), and ordered refunds of $50 Million more to a million drivers. That result was purely the result of my leadership.
I helped implement the Affordable Care Act on the State level – despite opposition by Republican legislators who wanted to blow up President Obama’s greatest achievement – and I fought against insurance company discrimination against women, persons of color, and LGBTQ+ citizens.
I took on the State’s largest health insurance company after determining that it had improperly withheld $156 Million and I ordered those premiums fully rebated (refunded) back to 215,000 North Carolina families. My bold decision was quite historic in this amount and scope, and caught the attention of President Obama who invited me to the White House Oval Office for a private meeting to discuss my leadership on consumer protection.
In addition to being the “Consumers’ Champion” and saving North Carolinians billions of dollars, I began modernizing the Department of Insurance and succeeded in my fight against insurance fraud: My team of law enforcement officers arrested over 1,500 persons accused of insurance fraud and, because of my leadership on this issue, I served several years as the Chairman of the Anti-Fraud Task Force of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
I created the Smart N.C. health insurance program to provide more enhanced consumer services for residents facing hurdles with health insurance, and implemented many other innovative programs – including the first ever employment outreach effort and internship program with North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The current Republican Insurance Commissioner failed to see the benefit of the program and did not continue it.
I made certain that the Department of Insurance reflected North Carolina and had the most diverse Insurance agency in State history and the most diverse senior managers. Unfortunately, that has changed with the current Republican Insurance Commissioner; he has made his agency much less diverse among managers and non-managers.
What also makes me an effective Insurance Commissioner – in addition to my 12 years at the Department of Insurance as Commissioner (eight years) and Assistant Commissioner (four years) – is my eight years of service in the legislature for many of the same issues, including creation of a Healthcare Bill of Rights.
In sum, what demonstrates my ability to be the very best Insurance Commissioner are my Billions of dollars in savings for every day consumers, my attracting more companies to the State so consumers have more choices and better prices, and my strident forever fight for what’s in the best interests of consumers on the issues that matter most. And what matters most to NC consumers and voters for this office is: who is the best at fighting to save consumers money and protect them from bad insurance company decisions. My 29 years of fighting for consumer rights cannot be matched by my opponent.
2) What do you believe are the most important issues facing the office of Insurance Commissioner? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
In my opinion, the most important general issues presently facing the office of Insurance Commissioner are:
- Improving the Affordable Care Act, not eliminating it, and ensuring that North Carolina law reflects and codifies those federal improvements on the State level.
- Holding public, transparent evidentiary hearings to determine whether North Carolinians are truly receiving the lowest, fairest insurance rates.
- Recruiting more companies to the State so citizens have even more choices of companies and products.
- Fighting insurance fraud better because fraud has doubled on the current Commissioner’s watch.
- Supporting our state’s firefighters – both career and volunteer first responders – more than ever and being their voice on issues that matter most to them – and unlike the present Insurance Commissioner it’s not about ceremonial grant check visits: It’s about wages and benefits and insurance coverage for firefighters. The Insurance Commissioner by law is also the State Fire Marshal.
My top three, specific priorities if elected to a 3rd term:
#1 — Affordable, accessible health insurance: I’m the only Insurance Commissioner candidate actively supporting Medicaid Expansion, supporting protection of coverage for pre-existing health conditions, seeking improvements to the ACA and not its elimination; and establishment of a State-based exchange that the ACA allows for, an option that would lead to more companies, lower rates, and more consumer protections.
#2 – Lowest, fairest insurance rates: As I did before, I will do everything possible to return North Carolina to the lowest average auto insurance premiums in the USA and the lowest, fairest homeowners’ insurance in the South. (The current Commissioner has allowed rates overall in auto, homeowners, and consent to rate pricing to rise more in his 4 years than in all my 8 years, and in a shock to me as a former Insurance Commissioner, he allowed back-to-back increases without giving consumers a multi-year pause for their pocketbooks.)
#3 – Presumptive occupational cancer coverage for firefighters: Because of the current Commissioner not championing this issue as State Fire Marshal, North Carolina now is the last State in the Nation to not require presumptive occupational cancer coverage for firefighters. The Number One killer of firefighters is not fire or heart attacks, but cancer. Because I’m fighting for firefighters to have coverage for cancer and PTSD, and the current Commissioner is not doing so, I’ve been endorsed by the Professional Firefighters and Paramedics of North Carolina and the national association of firefighters (IAFF).
3) Homeowners’ insurance rates have risen over the past couple of years, prompting a proposal to give the insurance commissioner more authority over rates and requiring more transparency from insurance companies. How, as commissioner, how would you work to keep rates low for homeowners?
I’m the only candidate in this race that has chaired not just one but two homeowners’ insurance hearings as Insurance Commissioner. I held the insurance companies accountable, rejected most of what they sought one year and then completely rejected their rate increase request the other time. (That last ruling of mine saved homeowners 25% statewide, which equals $600 Million.)
How I would work to keep rates low is holding data-driven hearings that involve my reliance as hearing officer on the expertise of actuaries and my understanding of the law. (I’m the only attorney in this race for Insurance Commissioner.) To be a hearing officer in rate hearings and fight best for consumers, the Insurance Commissioner ought to be trained in the law. The current Commissioner is the first non-lawyer as Commissioner since 1899. We don’t need a former registered lobbyist as Commissioner, which is who the current Commissioner is, but what we need is someone like me who has fought against greedy insurance companies in the courtrooms, in legislative committees, and in rate hearings and other decisions as Insurance Commissioner.
I support a proposal to give the Insurance Commissioner more authority over rates and requiring more transparency from insurance companies. That dual improvement would help me in capping maximum rates at the lowest amount possible and in ordering rate reductions, refunds, rebates, etc. To that end, as the only person in this race who has also served in the legislature, I would make it my mission to persuade the current legislature to amend our laws to help me protect consumers even more and hold insurance companies more accountable.
4) What is the insurance commissioner’s role in holding insurance companies accountable for misleading or wronging consumers?
The Insurance Commissioner has a very powerful and necessary role in holding insurance companies accountable. The Commissioner can and should launch audits, investigations, file charges, and issue fines and penalties against insurance companies that have misled or wronged consumers.
On my watch during my eight (8) years as Insurance Commissioner, my team and I assessed HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of dollars in penalties and restitution against insurance companies that harmed consumers. In fact, I’m the only person in this 2020 campaign who assessed the LARGEST FINE AND PENALTIES EVER against an insurance company in North Carolina. In 2016 I assessed $23 MILLION in fines, repayments, restitution, and interest against Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina for the great harm it did to consumers, physicians, and hospitals after the BCBSNC IT snafu of 2015-2016.
As the only attorney in this race and the candidate who worked 12 years at the Department of Insurance, I know how to hold insurance companies accountable and I will do so again if re-elected to a 3rd term.
5) How should North Carolina regulate premiums charged to residents of the coastal counties? What is the best way to achieve fairness for residents and insurers in hurricane-prone areas, especially given the increasing risk of climate change?
Property insurance premiums for residents in coastal counties must be based on (1) data; (2) risk; and, (3) the law.
With increased risk of hurricanes and tropical storms now more than ever, that necessarily causes insurance companies to seek massive increases for coastal property owners because of their increased exposure to massive losses; however, it is vital that the Insurance Commissioner decide what the data, science, and the law support so we have rates that are fair to everyone. It is vital that coastal property owners be able to afford insurance but also for them to pay what is fair in comparison to the non-coastal part of North Carolina.
Keep in mind that there are provisions in Chapter 58 of our General Statutes – enacted by legislators many years ago – that automatically cause hurricane-prone areas to have higher insurance rates already.
I support an update to the legislative solution I brokered in 2009-10 that solved the coastal homeowners’ insurance ticking time bomb. That crisis is re-emerging and we need someone who knows how to tackle it.
More specifically, the very best way to achieve that fairness for residents and insurers is for me as Insurance Commissioner to hold public, transparent, evidentiary hearings – not just public comment periods which don’t provide data – and I’m the only candidate for this office that has done that during my 12 years. The current Commissioner has refused to hold hearings, and that doesn’t achieve the fairness we need.
More broadly, we need an Insurance Commissioner like me who recognizes science and climate change – not a Republican that in practice tends to ignore science and is apparently reluctant to discuss climate change.
6) Will you accept campaign contributions from donors employed by insurers and their PACs? Why or why not?
I was the first candidate for NC Insurance Commissioner to participate in the first in the nation public finance program for Council of State elections. I was first elected in 2008 and refused *all* PAC contributions and any contributions from donors above $500 (other than my wife, my mother, and me, and those were capped at $1,000.) Unfortunately, the Republican legislature eliminated that program in 2013. When my opponent ran against me in 2012 – the same opponent I have now in 2020 – my recollection is that he failed to qualify for the public finance program.
In 2020, I have accepted campaign contributions from a thousand or more grassroots supporters – including some individual licensed insurance agents in North Carolina – most of which made campaign donations of $250, $100, or less. To the best of my knowledge, I have had only a very few contributions from insurance-related PACs, but it’s my understanding that those PACs are funded by employees and not management. (I fully expect my opponent has received more insurance PAC funds than I have.)
Though I’d much prefer a return to the public finance program where there can be no PAC donations and serious caps on individual donations, it would be reckless of me as a statewide candidate to implement that total ban now when my opponent has refused to ban those contributions himself. If re-elected as Insurance Commissioner, I will support enactment of the law reinstituting the public finance program as an option for the Insurance Commissioner and other Council of State elections or, in the alternative, a limitation on when or whether candidates for state Insurance Commissioner can solicit and accept campaign donations from persons regulated by the Department of Insurance.
7) One million North Carolinians do not have health insurance. How would you work to close the coverage gap? Do you support expanding Medicaid?
As I have done during my two terms as Insurance Commissioner and in the interim since last holding office, I will champion passage of Medicaid expansion by our legislature. The current Republican Insurance Commissioner balks at this topic and says he won’t support expansion because of some ethereal “fraud.” He has failed to lead on this subject, and defers to the legislature when, in fact, passage of Medicaid expansion would help lower the number of uninsured citizens by 750,000 and it would also help lower insurance premiums for everyone else on private insurance policies.
In short, I would actively engage the legislature in its passage and stress how it not only lowers costs for everyone but is the right thing to do. Medicaid is about insurance; it’s imperative that the state Insurance Commissioner be a leader on this issue, side-by-side with Governor Cooper and others.
Yes, I support expanding Medicaid and am the only Insurance Commissioner candidate that has and will continue to champion this vital public policy initiative.
Further, to help close the gap we need tools in addition to Medicaid expansion: I will seek the return to my consumer-friendly, State-based health insurance exchange proposal, a proposal which in its earlier iteration prompted several new health insurance companies to file for entry into North Carolina’s insurance market. As Insurance Commissioner I would also ask the legislature to amend relevant insurance laws in Chapter 58 of the North Carolina General Statutes so out-of-state health insurance companies will have greater regulatory incentive(s) to enter the State’s insurance market.
8) Are there any other issues you would like to address that have not been included in this questionnaire?
Yes, there are many, but the one I want to raise is the subject of a scandal that has prompted me and the former NCDOI Controller to file complaints with the State of North Carolina investigative agencies against the current Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey.
Specifically, the current Republican Insurance Commissioner has spent most of the last five months improperly traveling the State personally delivering millions of dollars in grant checks to fire departments when the law requires that the checks be mailed.
Further, he has held hundreds of unnecessary public ceremonies where he presents a large, fake grant check to firefighters – all in the midst of a pandemic and he was maskless for the first several months until he reacted to my online complaints about his recklessness.
He is using State resources to campaign.
Further, against State policy he has filmed many of his campaign commercials in his office.
Given the above and the massive number of events statewide in the final weeks of this campaign, it is wrong – and potentially unlawful – for him to use taxpayers’ dollars and resources to campaign. That is his campaign. He’s not doing other campaign events, as far as anyone can tell; he’s using his office for his campaign. In fact, he’s the only statewide elected official doing what he’s doing. Just check out the NCDOI Facebook and Twitter pages, and of the Office of State Fire Marshal’s Facebook and Twitter pages operated by NCDOI, and you’ll see those grant check events comprise the events my opponent also references in his campaign social and digital media.
Accordingly, I filed an extensive complaint with the State Auditor and the NC State Board of Elections; investigations are pending on these matters.
Comment on this questionnaire at [email protected].
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