NC Campaign 2012: things getting a little testy in the insurance commissioner race

I never imagined that we’d be dealing with mud-slinging and controversy in the race for NC Insurance Commissioner.

Right out of the general election starting gate, incumbent Democrat Wayne Goodwin is firing off campaign finance complaints against his GOP challenger Mike Causey.  Current polling shows Goodwin with a 40-36 lead over Causey, with 24 percent undecided.  So, one can see the need for Goodwin to play some hard-nosed defense.

Instead of nitpicking over campaign finance laws — which can be as overwhelming as the tax code, and DO change regularly — why aren’t we talking about real issues that affect everyday, average North Carolinians?   Perhaps Mr. Goodwin knows he will sink deeper into hot water by doing so. 

North Carolina places strict limits on which insurance providers can do business in North Carolina, as well as on what services they can provide.  Blue Cross Blue Shield controls 80-90 percent of the individual market in the state.   Where is the incentive for them to offer competitive pricing?  (They just announced a hefty premium increase for 2013, by the way.)

I was just talking with my auto insurance provider the other day — trying to get see if I can save a little on my premiums.  My provider told me that a lot of states allow them to offer discounts to in-state customers.   North Carolina DOES NOT.   Why would state government, specifically DOI, not approve opportunities for drivers to save money?

Mike Causey made an interesting point when I interviewed him recently.  He said a small group of companies get together and set pricing for the rest of us.   Causey says one of the best ways to improve the  insurance business in the state — for consumers — is to crack open the state market to all lawful, credible comers.  Anyone who has had an economics class or two knows that greater competition reaps all kinds of price and customer service benefits for customers.  

It appears that HE who has the best lobbyists and doles out the biggest campaign contributions WINS in Raleigh.   It’s not right for someone like Blue Cross to be able to overwhelmingly dominate the state’s market in a restricted, closed system.  It’s not right for a few politically connected insurance providers  to be able to set rules that benefit themselves at the expense of their competitors — and the state’s consumers. 

Campaign report complaints are a distraction to get us to take our eye off the ball.  THIS stuff is what we really need to be talking about between NOW and November.