Insurance commissioner should recuse herself from insurer merger, some say

Insurance commissioner should recuse herself from insurer merger, some say

Insurance commissioner should recuse herself from insurer merger, some say Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo sent Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade a letter Thursday, urging her to recuse herself from the Anthem-Cigna merger review process.

Wade is a former Cigna employee whose husband still works for the company.

"At present, I do not believe the current review process will ensure an unbiased decision based on the facts," Lembo said in his letter. "The strong ties between you as the regulatory authority and one of the merger applicants, combined with the secretive nature of the proceedings, at the very least, create the appearance of a favored outcome."

Lembo’s spokeswoman confirmed that this was the second letter he sent Wade, and that he has yet to receive a response.

The Citizen's Ethics Advisory Board is assessing whether Wade should recuse herself from the review, reported Hartford Courant. On the other hand, the Office of State Ethics said last year in an informal statement that the commissioner’s participation creates no conflict of interest.

"The commissioner has consistently sought the guidance of the Office of State Ethics and has made it clear that she will abide by whatever guidance ethics ultimately issues, even that guidance changes from what has been previously conveyed," stated Insurance Department spokeswoman Donna Tommelleo. "What is disappointing, however, is that the comptroller never picked up the phone to discuss the issue with the commissioner directly and instead issued a letter and press release largely based on media reports."

Lembo commented that despite the Office of State Ethics ruling that the commissioner has no conflict of interest, it "will not remove public skepticism of [Wade’s] role in the review of the merger."

The state comptroller also expressed his concerns over the deal should it push through.  Lembo, who serves as administrator for Connecticut’s employee health care plan, wrote that the acquisition could result in increased costs for consumers and lost jobs.

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