Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Interview with Maria Sheffield, Part II

Tonight, I get into the Question and Answer part of my interview with Maria Sheffield. Mrs. Sheffield is running for Insurance Commissioner for the State of Georgia. Last time, I wrote a little about her background. I think all Georgia voters should take some time to get to know Mrs. Sheffield. In my opinion, she is a very strong candidate and well worth looking into. I have left the responses in Mrs. Sheffield's own words. While this makes for a little bit longer post than I usually write, I think it is better to have the candidate speak for herself.

Political Friends:
There will be a large number of offices on the ballot in the 2010 elections in Georgia, why should voters pay attention to the Insurance Commissioners race?

Mrs. Maria Sheffield: Healthcare reform is presently the most controversial issue both within the State of Georgia and at the national level. Most people recognize and agree that health care is provided locally. Many people also understand that insurance coverage for locally provided health care can and should differ from state to state, as does the licensure of doctors, the types of available medical facilities, the court systems and other, related aspects that go with care and coverage. Many other people also understand that state laws include important protections for all people concerned about their health insurance coverage and their health care. I expect that whatever legislation may be passed at the federal level, will require direct state action and will likely involve the Georgia Department of Insurance.

Further, while the insurance commissioner is most often thought of as the regulator overseeing the licensing and regulation of 1,600 insurance companies and 137,000 insurance agents in the State of Georgia, the Georgia insurance commissioner is also responsible for approximately 1,000 industrial loan offices and also serves as both Safety Fire Commissioner and Comptroller General of the state. The role of Safety Fire Commissioner is diverse and responsibilities include the investigating and examining of construction and engineering techniques, construction material and fire prevention and protection techniques. These responsibilities fall into five main categories including building inspections (hotels, day care centers, schools and racetracks just to name a few), manufactured housing inspection, fire scene investigation, engineering and hazardous materials such as explosives and propane gas. The office also promotes fire safety education in the schools.

Given the responsibilities housed within the Georgia Department of Insurance, Georgia needs a strong leader who has direct experience with the many issues handled by the Department and someone that is willing to work hard each day for the citizens of the State.

PF: Why did you decide to make your official announcement on Facebook and Twitter? Do you hope to utilize the internet to communicate to Georgia voters, and if so how?

Sheffield: Absolutely, I will use new media to communicate with voters – everyday. Statistics show that the way we receive our news is changing. People receive more and more information on the Internet. Plus, this technology is available at virtually no cost to a campaign, provides voters with real-time information and allows for greater interaction which is key in a state that is geographically as large as the State of Georgia. It is also a lot of fun and I enjoy letting my supporters know what I am doing and likewise learn about them, what they are doing and the issues that are important to them personally.

Further, since I believe that the insurance
industry has to be both responsible and responsive to the citizens of the state, I intend to work with the industry to insure that the insurance regulatory framework in Georgia is clear and concise and works for those of us that are consumers of insurance products, as well as for the industry, as we all benefit from a healthy insurance environment. I believe that the most cost effective way to communicate with the industry is through Internet based technologies and will work as Insurance Commissioner to promote this practice at the Department of Insurance.

PF:You have spent time in the Georgia Department of Insurance as well as in private practice. Can you tell me a few things that might give you better insight into the role of the State Insurance Commissioner than some of your competitors?

Sheffield:I am the only candidate who has been on the front line listening to, and working for, Georgians with real problems regulated by the Department of Insurance. After six years of direct experience addressing issues in all of the various divisions within the Department, I made the decision to go into private practice, choosing to focus on insurance regulatory and compliance issues. While I thought I knew a lot coming out of the Department, I can attest to the fact that I have learned so much more over the past seven years and am glad I have had the opportunity to deal with issues affecting Georgians and the insurance industry from various vantage points. My experience in the private sector working in the industry for small business owners and taxpayers has certainly expanded my knowledge. Further, as someone who has worked with every insurance department in the country and has been actively involved in proceedings of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, I truly understand the pivotal role of an insurance commissioner and I take that responsibility seriously. During these critical times, Georgia needs a Commissioner who is ready to lead on day one and not someone who needs on the job training.

PF:What do you see as the biggest obstacles to the next Insurance Commissioner?

Sheffield:I think one of the biggest obstacles will be the uncertainty over the most appropriate and effective way to make changes to our nation's healthcare system. None of us currently know what and if any law(s) will be passed by the federal government. As Insurance Commissioner, I am charged with enforcing the laws that are made by members of our legislature, that being said, I will use every ounce of authority that I have to make certain that Georgians do not lose their ability to make their own decisions about their health care options and coverages.

Another major obstacle will be the economy. One of the most important jobs of any state insurance commissioner is regulating the solvency of the insurance industry. After all, it does not matter how many insurance companies are doing business in Georgia if they can't afford to pay the claims of their policyholders. The economy has no doubt had a direct impact on the insurance industry and as insurance commissioner I will be diligent in examining the solvency of each insurance company doing business in Georgia. The economy has also had a major impact on the budget of the Department of Insurance. As I understand it, there are actually fewer employees today at the Department than there were 16 years ago and of course all of these employees are handling many more issues than there were in the past. Services provided by the Department are crucial to the citizens of Georgia and the next insurance commissioner will truly have to do more with less and again, that is why I believe it is critical that we have an insurance commissioner that is already well versed in the issues before the Department.


I will post the rest of the Interview on Thursday. Some of the topics we discuss in the next half of the interview include the Fair Tax, the Tenth Amendment, and Health Care.

1 comment:

Christina said...

"During these critical times, Georgia needs a Commissioner who is ready to lead on day one and not someone who needs on the job training."

This interview gives readers a very solid sense of Mrs. Sheffield's capabilities & her heart motives. I'm not a Georgian but if I were, I would definitely consider her for my vote, she has the goods!