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Regulator candidates differ over using credit scores, gender in underwriting

Voters in Delaware, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota and Washington will choose their state insurance regulators in the upcoming November elections.

Insurance commissioner races have the potential to effect massive changes in states given the offices' abilities to approve mergers and acquisitions; their responsibilities to approve, disapprove or renegotiate insurance premium rate increases; and their powers to enact decisions to protect consumers.

S&P Global Market Intelligence breaks down the candidates' platforms in each race.

Washington

Voters in Washington will choose between a longtime incumbent and a challenger who says he has been a licensed insurance agent since 2013.

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Mike Kreidler, candidate for Washington insurance commissioner
Source: mikekreidler.com

Mike Kreidler: The incumbent commissioner, a Democrat, said one of his top priorities is to tackle the use of credit scores for underwriting.

"I would like to see that eliminated in the state of Washington for auto, homeowners, renters and life insurance," Kreidler said in an interview.

He said the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 have hurt the credit scores of many individuals, and that damage is likely to remain for years. Kreidler said the use of credit scoring in underwriting is "terribly unfair" because it generalizes people and does not present a true picture of their risk for insurance. Just because someone has low income or was adversely impacted by COVID-19 does not mean they are necessarily a bad risk, he said.

Kreidler also noted that using credit scores in underwriting tends to have a disparate impact on people of color.

In addition, Kreidler has a keen interest in seeing what the department can do to get insurance companies "much more involved" in issues around climate change and insurers' investing strategies.

Kreidler also plans to focus on long-term care insurance and help develop a uniform approach to how long-term care products are dealt with, an issue that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has also prioritized this year.

Chirayu Patel: Patel, a Republican, describes himself as an "autistic savant" and is running for public office for the first time.

In a voter guide posted on the Washington Secretary of State website, Patel wrote that he has been involved in the insurance industry for 21 years, despite being in his early 30s.

In an interview with S&P Global Market Intelligence, Patel claimed he would be able to channel the abilities of former presidents Thomas Jefferson and Ronald Reagan to help him run the office of insurance commissioner if elected. Patel also said he would look to make "drastic reform" in the actuarial algorithms that are used across all lines of insurance.

Montana

Two newcomers are on the ballot in Montana: a businessman, and an attorney who has served as a representative in the Montana House of Representatives.

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Troy Downing, candidate for Montana state auditor
Source: Troy Downing campaign

Troy Downing: Downing, a Republican, in an interview with S&P Global Market Intelligence said he would like to make the office of the Montana state auditor, the office that handles insurance matters in the state, more business-friendly.

For example, he said Montana insurance companies have to produce paperwork that is not required on the securities side and is different than what is seen in the rest of the country.

In addition, Downing said that laws in Montana that restrict insurers from considering differences in men and women are "contrary to actuarial reality." He said he would look to change those rules if elected.

He also described the office of insurance as being a consumer protection agency and would make it a top priority to protect consumers in Montana with educational resources.

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Shane Morigeau, candidate for Montana state auditor
Source: shaneformontana.com

Shane Morigeau: Morigeau, a Democrat, said one of his top goals would be to strike a positive balance between supporting the insurance industry and protecting consumers in Montana, with a focus on providing fair and affordable insurance for consumers across all lines of insurance.

As an attorney with a background in criminal law, Morigeau said he would be prepared to personally step in and work to fight fraud. He also plans to crack down on "junk insurance plans."

Morigeau has no plans to fight against the gender-blind underwriting rules and said his energy could be better spent elsewhere.

Morigeau said he holds a record of being able to communicate across the political aisle and worked on bills that involved Medicaid expansion and billing for air ambulances and reinsurance programs in Montana, among other things, during his time in the state legislature.

North Dakota

In North Dakota, incumbent Jon Godfread is running unopposed after the state supreme court ruled his opponent had not lived in the state long enough to run for the position.

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Jon Godfread, candidate for North Dakota insurance commissioner
Source: jongodfreadfornd.com

Jon Godfread: Godfread, a Republican, has served as insurance commissioner since 2016.

In an interview with S&P Global Market Intelligence, Godfread said he intends to continue a lot of the work the department focused on during his first term. He said much of that work focused on managed care rates and included a "fairly significant" healthcare cost study.

In addition, he said the department has expanded its fraud prosecution unit, and plans to continue protecting consumers and educating them on the services that the office can provide.

Godfread noted that he serves on the climate resiliency task force at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and said he hopes he can bring a balance to the discussion, recognizing that the changing climate is having a big impact on insurance, but placing emphasis on responsible development.

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