Under the Dome

Insurance commissioner steps out to support state-run exchange

Democratic Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin broke his silence on the legislative debate surrounding the health insurance exchanges, arguing that a state-based exchange is better for the state's consumers.

"I believe that North Carolinians know what’s best for North Carolina," he said in a prepared statement released Tuesday. "State-based regulation best protects our consumers and promotes a healthy insurance marketplace."

Goodwin sat on the sidelines (at least publicly) for the past week as the Republicans pushed a bill to let the federal government run the online marketplace for insurance policies and require Goodwin to send back any federal money he received to help get a state-sponsored exchange. But he said Wednesday he has worked behind the scenes to answer lawmakers questions for months after testifying in favor of a state-sponsored exchange in in the 2011 session.

He countered Gov. Pat McCrory's suggestion that the state isn't prepared to run an exchange, saying his agency and the Department of Health and Human Services "have laid the necessary groundwork to implement a state-based health insurance exchange and other provisions of the federal health care law."

Democratic lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill Tuesday to allow the state insurance department mediate insurance disputes between North Carolina doctors, insurance companies and patients, but the GOP-drafted bill leaves the power to the federal government.

"Having a federal exchange in North Carolina will no doubt limit our ability to resolve consumers’ health insurance issues at the state level," he said. "People who have questions, concerns or complaints about health insurance will have to seek out help from the federal government rather than from trusted regulators in our own state."

As an independently elected statewide official, Goodwin is one of the highest ranking Democrats in the state now that Republicans control the governor's mansion and lieutenant governor's office.

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