This didn’t get alot of press, except from WDDE — but Delaware’s workmans compensation rate-payers now have an advocate and watchdog. The Ratepayer Advocate position was one of the recommendations of the Workers Compensation Task Force that was charged with taking a hard look at excessive increases (26% over two years) in workers compensation rates — made especially critical by the fact that the Insurance Commissioner seemed ready to approve another set of increases without regard for the ratepayers. Lt. Governor Matt Denn headed up this commission and he and this group were able to submit to the Governor a set of reform recommendations that built on the reforms that Denn implemented when he was IC. So basically, the Governor and the GA asked Matt Denn to take up the work of reducing the impact on ratepayers — the job that the IC is *supposed* to do. Mr. Fred Thompson has been named to the position and he is a former Deputy Insurance Commissioner.
One of the recommendations was the appointment of a Ratepayer’s Advocate — someone who would specifically represent the interests of Workmans Comp ratepayers (rather than the insurance companies, which is the instinct of the current IC):
Change Title 18, Section 2610 of the Delaware Code to require appointment by the Department of Insurance (DOI) of an attorney to represent ratepayers through the rate-setting process, with authority for the appointed attorney to retain an actuarial expert and demand additional data and other factual information from the applicant. By appointing an outside advocate for rate-payers and providing that advocate with adequate time, data, and expert assistance to prepare for a rate hearing, DOI can ensure that the hearing officer for any rate increase application will hear evidence of any excessive reserve requests or other unnecessary costs being sought by insurance carriers during the DCRB’s annual rate filing. The task force contemplates that the outside advocate would be hired at a flat fee for a limited period of months, and that DOI would need only one actuary to analyze the rate filing rather than two if the outside advocate is using his or her own actuary. Costs would be borne by the applicant.
The IC objects to this new position, however:
DOI Response: The DOI objects to this proposal because it duplicates the Commissioner’s existing statutory duty, with the assistance of experts and counsel, to examine workers compensation filings and to protect ratepayers. The purpose of the public information session and public hearing process is to allow ratepayers and other members of the public to be heard. It is the duty of the Commissioner, and not a private attorney, to protect the
ratepayers. As an alternative which avoids interference with the Commissioner’s powers, DOI suggests adding the underlined language to 18 Del. C. §2610, which is similar to existing language in 18 Del. C. §5003(d)(3):
This new position is meant to actually do the job that the IC is *supposed* to do, but doesn’t. It is really hard to defend turf that you aren’t even in — if you want to keep your responsibilities, you need to perform those responsibilities. Otherwise you are always at the mercy of special Task Forces who are going to make the system work, in spite of the IC not being especially interested in her real customers.