Best’s News & Research Service - July 01, 2022 08:45 AM (EDT)
Oklahoma Commissioner Mulready Already Geared Up for Second Term
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. //BestWire// - Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready has a luxury other insurance commissioners who are elected, like him, do not.
Mulready was the only statewide official who faced no opposition on the June 28 primary ballot and was deemed the winner by state election officials. That leaves him free not to worry about a general election campaign and able to focus on the next four years.
The first priority, he told BestWire, is for the Oklahoma Insurance Department to continue to foster a reputation for being consumer- and business-friendly at the same time.
He said some other states’ regulators have become “notorious” for taking a year or two to complete a review of an insurance rate filing.
“That’s just unacceptable in my eyes,” he said. “I talk to my team constantly about being responsive and fair and being known as being business friendly while we still do our regulatory job.”
The way to keep the consumer-business balance in shape is by encouraging a robust market for insurance business, he said.
“When I ran for office, I talked a lot about choices,” Mulready said. “I’m a big free market guy. I believe that competition drives down costs and increases efficiencies and encourages innovation.”
The proof of that is evident in the state’s individual and small group health insurance marketplace, he said. When Mulready first took office, Oklahoma had two companies statewide competing for business. Now, there are six, the department said.
The state’s consumers had a role in that, according to the nonpartisan Oklahoma Policy Institute. When voters in 2020 approved a ballot question permitting the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the rate of uninsured Oklahomans was 14.3% and by 2021 showed a significant decline to 11.5%, it said.
Additionally, Mulready is touting Oklahoma’s growing captive insurance market.
The state now has 40 captives, a third of which became domiciled since 2019, according to the OID.
Captive premium volume increased to $214.4 million last year, from $147.3 million in 2017, it said.
To highlight its stature, the OID will host its first Oklahoma Captive & Insurance Business Transfer Conference Aug. 24-25, it said.
An Oklahoma court last year approved an insurance business transfer arrangement for a portfolio of Sentry Insurance Co. reinsurance policies, the first time the Oklahoma IBT process was used to transfer business between two entirely separate counterparties (BestWire, Aug. 27, 2021).
The OID staff has two more in the works, Mulready said.
“We’re giving companies another tool to free up capital or (a way) to handle some of their runoff and legacy business,” he said.
Going forward, Mulready said the department will be entering the third year of a three-year drive to get OID salaries at least to 90% of comparable salaries in the private sector, he said, saying the department handed out about $1 million in raises in the past two years.
That development goes along with the 2020 opening of the OID’s first permanent office home building, which less than two weeks after opening, had to be closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. The good news is the building is again open and, importantly, already paid off, he added.
Oklahoma does have its challenges, largely due to its climate, Mulready acknowledged.
“We get a lot of wind and hail claims,” he said. “Property and homeowners is a little bit of concern,” he said, noting the issue isn’t capacity, but pricing.
Like other states, Oklahoma also is struggling with the cost of long-term care insurance, he said.
He’ll have a little more than four years to work those issues out. This election year will be his last on the ballot, because he is limited to two consecutive terms under Oklahoma law.
(By Timothy Darragh, associate editor, BestWeek: Timothy.Darragh@ambest.com)