Monday, May 17, 2010

My Interview with Gerry Purcell (Part II)

Last week I mentioned that I was able to sit down and talk to Gerry Purcell. Mr. Purcell is running for Insurance Commissioner for Georgia. I gave a short biography of him last time, and thought I would start with the issues in this post.

The Interview:

When I sat down with Mr. Purcell, he was fresh off a string of successful straw polls. While straw polls don't guarantee a win, they do give a general picture of the mood of the participants. Gerry Purcell was particularly excited about two polls: the Sixth Congressional district and a UGA teen Republican poll. Mr. Purcell told me that he was really excited about the Sixth Congressional because, "… it was an opportunity to see all the candidates side by side." At that poll, Purcell won 78.2% of the vote. That translated into 360 votes. The next closest opponent won around 22 votes. At the teen Republican poll, Mr. Purcell won by 55% of the vote. The next closest candidate ended up with 19% of the vote.

I asked Mr. Purcell to tell me what he believed qualified him for the office of Insurance Commissioner. I was impressed with his answer. He pointed out that he, "…is the only candidate that brings to the office a national perspective on health care." Mr. Purcell has been a "functional area health care expert", for the last 15 years. He has been involved in working with health care payers at the national level and at multiple states around the country. He pointed out that with national health care reform being signed into law, Mr. Purcell believes Georgia voters want an Insurance Commissioner with national experience. He also stressed that while, "some of the other candidates have worked for mostly insurance companies," he has worked for the payers. He told me:

"I represent payers. Those who pay the bills. That's where my allegiance is to and it will be the consumers, if I'm elected. Of course we will do the right thing by the insurance companies. But my first allegiance is to the Constitution of the State of Georgia, and to protect the consumers of the state, secondly."

I was very impressed. I haven't heard many elected officials promise loyalty to the Constitution of the State of Georgia.

I have said a number of times on this blog that elections are important, and that voters should pay attention to every race. I asked Mr. Purcell why he thought voters should pay attention to the race for Insurance Commissioner. He then rattled off a list of areas that the Insurance Commissioner can affect your life. Anyone over 18, and even some under 18, has insurance of some sort, "whether your parents cover you to drive, you own a home, a business, a boat, or simply have health insurance." The Insurance Commissioner also manages the Fire Safety aspect of the state. In addition to fire stations, last year there were 960+ inspections of nursing home sprinkler systems last year in Georgia. The Insurance Commissioner is also responsible for small loans operators. "If you get a loan for under $3,000 as a consumer, its' regulated by the Insurance Commissioner's Office," Mr. Purcell informed me. This year, the job is even more important. With the passage of national health care reform, the State Insurance Commissioners are going to be responsible for implementing the program in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services. Mr. Purcell stated that the title "insurance commissioner" is mentioned about two dozen times in the new healthcare reform legislation. He also mentioned a surprise from the purposed financial reform bill. "…[I]n this new financial reform bill, the "too big to fail bill", we're talking about, has a provision that establishes, under the Treasury Department, a National Insurance Czar." I hadn't heard any reports of this in the media. Additionally, "…that individual would be responsible for all lines of insurance." In my opinion, this is just one more intrusion by the federal government.

In Part Three of this interview, Mr. Purcell talks about a group called the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and why we should be watching them. We also talk about Mr. Purcell's plan to lower insurance costs for Georgians, and how he wants to hold other nations responsible for "their fair share" of drug research and development costs.

No comments: