Pounded by the Obama administration for raising premiums, health insurers now must reckon with a foursome of longtime industry watchdogs who are helping steer the federal government's effort to overhaul the private insurance market.
The four have top spots in the newly minted Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, whose work will be key to the success -- or failure -- of the new health-care law, which vastly expands federal authority over health insurance, traditionally a state-regulated industry.
On this year's to-do list: writing rules to define when premium increases are "unreasonable," creating coverage for people who cannot get it because of health conditions and making sure insurers comply with consumer protections.
The new director of the office is Jay Angoff, a former Missouri insurance commissioner who once played keyboard in the Brooklyn Bridge rock band. He gained a reputation in Missouri as a demanding but fair regulator who saved the state millions of dollars by creating a "competitive bidding" process for insurers that wanted to cover state employees. A top priority now, he said in an interview, is to "make sure consumers have as much market power as possible."
Jay Angoff. Angoff was most recently head of the insurance litigation department, which sues insurers on behalf of consumers, for the Washington-based law firm Mehri & Skalet. As Missouri's insurance commissioner in the 1990s, he required Blue Cross of Missouri to create a $400 million foundation to convert to a for-profit entity.
Before that, as a New Jersey insurance official, he helped draft a state law requiring insurers to charge applicants similar amounts, whether they are sick or healthy. In 2005, in a report for the New York-based Center for Justice and Democracy, he angered medical malpractice insurers when he used industry-provided data to show they were overestimating future costs -- and overcharging doctors as a result.
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