Thursday, October 29, 2009

An Interview with Maria Sheffield, Part III

This week I have been posting my interview with Maria Sheffield. Mrs. Sheffield is a candidate for Georgia State Insurance Commissioner. I posted a little of her background here. I also posted the first part of this interview here. As I have said before, I think Mrs. Sheffield is a very interesting candidate and I think Georgia voters should get to know her.

I warned my readers last time that these posts would be a little longer than my traditional post. However, I think it's a good idea to include the entire response from Mrs. Sheffield so youcan make your own decisions about what she was trying to say. Without further ado, here is the conclusion of our interview.

Political Friends:
In Georgia politics there seem to be a number of candidates that are being accused of being the "hand- picked successor" to the current office holder. You have been accused of that on the internet. Can you tell me a few things that would distinguish your time in office or your position on issues from Mr. Oxendine's?

Mrs. Sheffield
: Well, that is just silly, but I suppose when these "other" candidates neither have the experience or qualifications for the job, it is easier to try and belittle the competition. It is so effortless for people to be negative on the Internet because they know they do not have to be accountable for their actions. When political campaigns do not have positive ideas to offer, they attempt to distract Georgia from the real issues. It is true that I worked at the Department of Insurance during the Oxendine administration but I have also been in private practice for the past seven years. This campaign is not about the current incumbent. It is about the people of Georgia and who has the experience to work for them each day on the issues before the Department, which affect their daily lives. I think of the campaign as an extended interview - the voters in Georgia are interviewing candidates for a job, one that is paid by their tax dollars. Surely they want to hire a qualified person and not someone simply seeking higher office or someone hoping to promote his or her own self-interested agendas. I believe my personal, professional and educational backgrounds suggest I am the best qualified person for the job.

I am very proud of my service to the citizens of Georgia during my time at the Department of Insurance and I think most reasonable taxpayers understand I worked for them and did my best for them. I am proud that many people who support the work of the current commissioner are supporting my campaign and I am also equally proud that I have strong backing from people who have chosen not to offer their support to the current commissioner. I can assure you and everyone in Georgia, that any decisions I make as insurance commissioner will be based on my relationship with taxpayers, my own beliefs and my own experiences.

PF: You are campaigning on "Portability of Health Insurance Policies". How would you work to get more portable coverage for Georgia workers?

Sheffield: The last major federal challenge to state regulation of health insurance came about in 1996 with the Kennedy-Kassebaum Bill, known now as HIPAA or, more formally, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. When HIPAA was passed, all states, including Georgia, were forced to change many of their state health insurance laws. The Georgia Legislature acted shortly thereafter to protect state regulation of insurance in Georgia by clarifying many jurisdictional issues surrounding state regulation. I would point out that Georgia was ahead of many states in the rest of the nation in establishing laws regarding portability protections in health insurance a full year before the federal government adopted them in HIPAA. I will work to make certain that Georgia's portability laws are maintained as a job change should never cause a Georgia taxpayer to lose his or her health insurance coverage.

Would you challenge the creation of a National Insurance Commissioner in court? Do you believe the creation of a National Insurance Commissioner would violate the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

Sheffield: In 1944, the Supreme Court ruled that insurance should come under federal regulation, but Congress passed the McCarran-Ferguson Act in 1945, returning control to the state level where it has remained to this day. State insurance oversight has kept insurance companies both solvent and stable and has protected policyholders for the past sixty-four years. State regulators continue to provide an immediate and local response to consumer issues. While there are a number of areas in the financial sector that suffer from little or no regulation; insurance is certainly not one of them. The strong state-based regulatory framework should remain in place and not be supplanted with a new federal bureaucracy.

PF: I have seen your support for the Fair Tax in a number of places. What can the Insurance Commissioner do to get the Fair Tax Act into law in Georgia?

Sheffield: In my experience, Georgia voters generally want to know where their public servants stand on the vital issues of the day, they want to know the values we hold. I will use my position to advocate for the Fair Tax among those elected officials that are in a position to directly affect change – we are a government run by people and all who are honored to serve must speak out on the issues that are important to the taxpayers. This being said, my primary focus as insurance commissioner will be in serving the people of Georgia in the capacity in which I am elected.PF: Health Care and Health Insurance reform are hot topics in Washington. What proposals do you believe need to be considered in any effective health care reform?

Health Care and Health Insurance reform are hot topics in Washington. What proposals do you believe need to be considered in any effective health care reform?

One of the reasons I am running for insurance commissioner is because I want to establish the most competitive free-market environment for Georgia's insurance industry, one that simultaneously provides the greatest opportunities for business and the best choices for consumers at the most reasonable rates. Any effective health care reform must incorporate these same fundamental principles.

PF: You have pledged to expand the Rural Georgia Healthcare Initiative. Why is this so important, and how can it be expanded in a fiscally responsible way?

Sheffield: The Rural Georgia Healthcare Initiative that I am referring to relates to Georgia's telemedicine program. You should know that I was born and raised in a small town in middle Georgia, my father was disable from the time I was five years old and because of my father's health problems I spent many days of my life traveling to and from metro-area hospitals, so I understand firsthand the value of telemedicine. You see, through telecommunications systems, computer technology and specialized medical cameras doctors are able to examine, diagnose, treat and educate patients at a distance. Telemedicine provides greater access to quality care, allows physicians to better share knowledge, provides stronger relationships between patients and providers and reduces travel time for people, thereby reducing costs and adding value to the economy.

Additionally, rural hospitals in Georgia face a financial crisis because hospitals in undeserved areas face competitive disadvantages as they confront rising costs. Such facilities need to find sustainable ways to become more efficient while improving health care quality and reducing costs. I believe that telemedicine is a step in the right direction. I will encourage the continued investment of private dollars into this program.

PF: The election is over a year away. At this point, how do you like your chances, and what will you be doing in the coming months to get your name out to the voters in Georgia?

Sheffield: First, I am listening to people across the State of Georgia, talking with them about their issues and concerns and telling them about my plans for the Department. The people I have met know that I understand the role of insurance commissioner and the issues that are dealt with daily by the Department. They appreciate that my interest in pursing the position is rooted in my desire to actually serve the public in a position where I have a solid base of knowledge. I am the only candidate who has real experience in insurance, fire safety and industrial loan matters. I will use this knowledge and experience to be an advocate for the people of Georgia in this campaign.

I am humbled by the support the campaign is receiving across Georgia. We are building a strong team of committed volunteers and supporters. We will work tirelessly to earn the trust and votes of the taxpayers.

I took away from this interview that Mrs. Sheffield is a very qualified candidate who has some very interesting ideas about the office she is hoping to win next year. I will be keeping an eye on her over the next year and I wish her the best of luck.

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