The revolving door at state insurance commissions; Arkansas case makes the point | Arkansas Blog

Monday, October 3, 2016

The revolving door at state insurance commissions; Arkansas case makes the point

Posted By on Mon, Oct 3, 2016 at 7:26 AM

MAKES A POINT: Julie Benafield, former Arkansas insurance commissioner, makes a point for authors of stories about insurance industry influence on state regulators.
  • MAKES A POINT: Julie Benafield, former Arkansas insurance commissioner, makes a point for authors of stories about insurance industry influence on state regulators.
The Center for Public Integrity and the Washington Post have combined for a report on how the insurance industry lavishes junkets and entertainment on insurance commissioners and how often insurance commissioners transition from state jobs to fatter jobs working for insurance companies.

This is old news in Arkansas of course. Commissioners move to and fro, too. The current commissioner, Allen Kerr, came from the insurance business (and he has had a whirlwind round of traveling in his first two years in office, when he's also been busy devising plans for a monumental new office building for himself across the street from the Capitol.)

The reporting project happens to use as its anecdotal lead none other than a former Arkansas regulator:

When the Arkansas insurance commissioner weighed the merits of a hospital’s billing complaint against United Healthcare, her interactions with one of the nation’s largest health insurers extended far beyond her department’s hearing room.

During months of deliberations, Commissioner Julie Benafield Bowman met repeatedly with United Healthcare lawyers and lobbyists over lunch and drinks at venues such as the Country Club of Little Rock.

“I had a blast with you Monday night,” Benafield emailed United Healthcare lawyer Bill Woodyard, himself a former state insurance commissioner. “Thank you so much for entertaining us.”

Benafield ultimately decided the case in United Healthcare’s favor — a 2008 ruling that stood to save the company millions of dollars. Nearly two years later, by the time a judge vacated the commissioner’s orders because there was “an appearance of impropriety in the proceedings,” Benafield had moved on: She was working for United Healthcare, having joined at least three of her predecessors representing insurers in Arkansas.

Woodyard is deceased, and Benafield has said her meetings with United Healthcare lobbyists did not influence her decisions as commissioner. United Healthcare has said it did not discuss employment with Benafield until after she had issued her final ruling in the case.

Benafield was a Huckabee-era insurance commissioner. She moved back into the public sector in the 2014 Republican sweep as chief of staff for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. An appearance of impropriety in her handling of the United Healthcare case was also old news in Arkansas.

Tags: , , , , ,


Sign up for the Daily Update email
Favorite

Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Where's the outrage?

    Am I the only person, apart from federal prosecutors, outraged about the criminal enterprise that inveigled itself into a privileged position as an Arkansas taxpayer-financed human services provider to the tune, today, of $43 million a year?
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Where's the outrage?

    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Rutledge opponent hits her socializing with corporate interests

    Mike Lee, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, has criticized Attorney General Leslie Rutledge over recent reports of her participation at private meetings where corporate interests make big contributions to a political group she heads for access to state legal officers.
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Trump immigration protest at LR: Quick and fierce

    It was not even 24 hours ago that Sophia Said, director of the Interfaith Center; City Director Kathy Webb and others decided to organize a protest today of Donald Trump's executive order that has left people from Muslim countries languishing in airports or unable to come to the US at all — people with visas, green cards,a  post-doc graduate student en route to Harvard, Google employees abroad, families. I got the message today before noon; others didn't find out until it was going on. But however folks found out, they turned out in huge numbers, more than thousand men, women and children, on the grounds of the state Capitol to listen to speakers from all faiths and many countries.
    • Jan 29, 2017
  • French Hill votes against disaster aid to Puerto Rico

    Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill alone among Arkansas's House delegation voted last week against a measure that provided $36.5 billion in disaster aid, a portion  for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico as well as money for wildfire response and to support the flood insurance program.
    • Oct 14, 2017
  • Your daily dose of Jason Rapert

    Sen. Jason Rapert really, really didn't like it when a KATV reporter asked him about the hypocrisy of his political arguments.
    • Feb 4, 2017

Most Viewed

  • Proposed child holding site in Arkansas 5 miles from WWII Japanese-American internment camp

    One big difference between Rohwer and today: The parents kept at Rohwer in World War II weren't separated from their children.
  • LR woman sues Louisville police over failures in rape investigation

    Salisa Luster Harrison, who now lives in Little Rock, Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit in Louisville, Ky., alleging multiple failures by the Louisville police investigating a sexual assault of her more than 10 years ago.
  • Baby gorilla born at zoo

    The Little Rock Zoo has a happy announcement: The birth of a healthy baby gorilla. The baby, whose sex has not been determined, was born to Sekani, who came to the zoo in 2004 from Toronto; her baby is her third. The father of the baby is a silverback, Kivu, and he is being "very attentive" to his first child, the zoo reports. Kivu came to the zoo in 2016 from Santa Barbara.
  • All in the family: Ten relatives of top executives were on payroll at PFH, the nonprofit troubled by corruption scandals

    Preferred Family Healthcare, the Medicaid-enriched nonprofit with a vast network of service providers in Arkansas that gobbles up tens of millions of dollars in state funding annually, has been in the news frequently this year because of its connection to multiple federal corruption cases. According to the most recently available tax filings, in 2015 ten family members of top executive were on the payroll, drawing salaries from PFH — including relatives of all four of the executives who were put on leave in the wake of the scandals. Three of these family members were making more than $100,000.

Most Recent Comments

Slideshows

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation