Opinion: Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner’s case for going digital and empowering Republicans in California


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Steve Poizner, whose term as California insurance commissioner ends Jan. 2, met with The Times’ editorial board Monday to reflect on his accomplishments since taking office in 2007. Armed with a four-year summary report, he highlighted his top 10 accomplishments. Several of them included innovative efforts in the realm of digitizing information to serve both the bottom line (something he recommends for all state offices) and Californians in their efforts to navigate auto and health insurance options.

Find a list of his initiatives -- which he points out were accomplished during a ‘perfect storm’ of wildfires and financial mess, not to mention a run against Meg Whitman to become the Republican gubernatorial candidate -- after the jump. But first, listen to Poizner’s case for why California needs Republicans. Speaking here with board member Jim Newton:


Q&A with Steve Poizner

Poizner’s self-evaluation after the jump:

Poizner offered a list of accomplishments in a glossy report on his four-year tenure. Here’s a few of them, with a bit of elaboration that Poizner provided in his visit.

--Modernized office operations, such as going near-paperless, rather than reducing his workforce, “totaling $17 million in savings and efficiencies” and sending more money back into the marketplace. (Some Poizner critics wonder if the savings haven’t come at the expense of more vigorous enforcement of the state’s insurance regulations. But Poizner stressed that the savings were achieved by cutting fatty processes -- and paperclips -- and not productive humans.) --Created a searchable PPO health insurance report-card-style database. --“Paved the way for California drivers to purchase pay-as-you-drive auto insurance,” an incentive that’s good both for the individual’s pocketbook and the California environment. --“Oversaw nearly 2,800 insurance fraud-related arrests in the first three years, more than any previous insurance commissioner in any three-year span.” --“Established first-of-its-kind title sales licensing system to successfully eliminate kickbacks to Realtors.” --“Developed first-in-the-nation rescission regulations to stop health insurers from canceling health insurance after claims have been made.” In other words, protecting patients from insurance companies ditching them mid-treatment. --“Conducted first-ever terror finance probe by an insurance commissioner in the United States, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars diverted from Iran.”

All this, Poizner points out, was done during a “perfect storm” in California that included:
Wildfires destroying homes. He pointed out:“There were more consecutive wildfires here in California in the last four years then in any other period of history in the state of California since the tracking started on wildfires.”

What he called the state’s ‘bankruptcy.’ To which he said: “Made our jobs especially challenging.”

The financial meltdown. He said: “[O]ne of my most important duties as insurance commissioner is to make sure that insurance companies stay financially strong anyway, but in the middle of this meltdown, we had to redouble our efforts make sure that happened. There [are] about 1,300 insurance companies in California; we’re the largest insurance market in the country; fourth largest in the world; it’s about a $160-billion industry; and I’m proud to report it’s healthy.”

What’s next for Poizner? We’ll be tracking his developments.

-- Alexandra Le Tellier