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Former state insurance commissioner John Randolph Ingram, a well-known and often controversial figure in North Carolina politics throughout the 1970s and 1980s, died of heart failure Sunday evening at his home in Myrtle Beach.
Ingram, 83, served 12 years in the commissioner’s office after a successful 1972 campaign urging reform of the insurance industry. It was a theme he returned to often during his more than two decades in politics and public life, which included a losing campaign against U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms.
Former State Insurance Commissioner John Ingram is asking an administrative judge to reverse the State Health Plan's decision not to reimburse roughly $15,000 in transportation expenses to help him get to Duke Medical Center for treatment of an infected hip and a weakened heart.
Ingram is retired and lives in Myrtle Beach. He served as insurance commissioner from 1973 to 1985. His medical issues began with hip surgery in 2005 near his home. The hip became infected and that led to a stroke and heart attack.
Ingram needed surgery to repair the hip, but because of his other health problems, he said the only surgeon he could find to take care of him was at Duke, reports Dan Kane. He said his medical issues also meant that he needed special transport to Durham for several months in 2006.
According to a State Health Plan letter, Ingram was not eligible for reimbursement for the services. It cited the transportation as something the health plan "does not provide benefits for." Health plan officials declined to comment, citing medical privacy laws.
In an interview, Ingram, 79, said the surgery was a success. He can walk with a cane, but he also uses a motorized scooter to get around. He said the State Health Plan is wrong not to reimburse him for a service that he desperately needed.
"If I hadn't been able to pay for the transportation myself I'd be dead by now," Ingram said.
Jack Betts recalls another political nickname.
The Charlotte Observer columnist told Dome about the 1978 campaign between U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms and state insurance commissioner John Ingram.
After defeating Luther Hodges Jr. in the Democratic primary runoff by tagging him as the "rich man's candidate," Ingram reprised the tactic for the general election.
He targeted Helms' reputation as a fiscal conservative, noting that the Republican was spending millions raised through direct mail to get himself re-elected. (Envy may have played a part, since Ingram was short on funds himself.)
A popular TV series at the time starred Lee Majors as an astronaut who had been rebuilt after an accident, making him "The Six Million Dollar Man."
Ingram tagged Helms as "The Five Million Dollar Man," though Helms ended up winning — and spending more than $7 million.
More on that race here.