BCBSA's Holland Rejects Conflict of Interest Criticism

John Commins, January 13, 2011

A consumer watchdog group is criticizing the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association's hiring this week of a high-profile former state insurance commissioner as a lobbyist, saying the appointment of Kim Holland raises "tremendous concerns" about the revolving door between politics and lobbying.

Holland was until November insurance commissioner for the state of Oklahoma, and treasurer-secretary of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. 

Craig Holman with Public Citizen said Holland's appointment raises "tremendous concerns" about conflict of interest. "This is the classic abuse of the revolving door. What Kim is selling is not so much expertise but her Rolodex. She is well connected with those who are in government making decisions that directly affect the insurance industry, and the industry realizes that," Holman says.

Holland was the first woman elected insurance commissioner in Oklahoma in 2006 after having been appointed by Democratic Gov. Brad Henry in January 2005 to fill an unexpired term. In November she was defeated by Republican challenger John Doak, 47, who strongly opposed federal healthcare reforms.

Holland said Holman's concerns are baseless. "I have heard that statement about revolving doors throughout my tenure as insurance commissioner," she said. "I've spent my entire career in the insurance industry. Before I was appointed insurance commissioner I was a health insurance broker and consultant. That is one of the reasons why I was tapped for insurance commissioner. Our governor, and then later the voters, wanted someone who could come into the insurance department with not only knowledge of the industry but knowledge of consumer needs."

Holland said her "values are very much aligned" with BCBSA, particularly with respect to support for federal healthcare reform. "My role is to help provide resources at the state level to help them work with their policy makers to implement the important reform measures, to make sure we get people insured, that we improve the delivery system, and that we lower costs," she says. "That is what I worked on as commissioner and this is a wonderful opportunity for me to continue to work on the things that I think are important to the citizens of America."

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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