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Crawford: Goodbye Ralph we hardly knew you

Posted: August 30, 2017 - 12:53am

Georgia's insurance commissioner has several official duties, but two things he oversees have a significant impact on most consumers: auto insurance and health insurance.

How have the state's consumers fared under the current commissioner, Ralph Hudgens? Not very well, actually.

It was reported recently that Georgia has had some of the highest auto insurance rate increases in the nation - more than twice the national average.

When Hudgens was questioned about this inconvenient fact, he placed the blame on a state law passed in 2008 that allows auto insurers to increase their rates without the insurance commissioner's approval. Hudgens is correct that the state law virtually gives insurers a blank check to charge whatever they like. The only problem with that explanation is that Hudgens was a member of the state Senate in 2008 and supported that bill.

Hudgens could not have stopped the rates from taking effect, but he could have said something to legislators about it. He could have asked lawmakers to repeal or amend the law so that his office could help bring rates under control.

Hudgens did nothing, however, except sit back and draw his taxpayer-provided salary of $120,394 a year.

What has Hudgens done in the health insurance arena? The biggest change in health insurance since Hudgens first took office as commissioner has been the passage of the Affordable Care Act. It should not be a surprise that Hudgens, a conservative Republican, tried to block the implementation of Obamacare.

Since Obamacare was fully implemented in 2014, it has enabled somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 Georgians to obtain health coverage.

The one positive thing Hudgens can take credit for is his announcement in July that he won't run for a third term in 2018. There is no way of knowing which of those candidates will win, but we can say one thing for sure: When the new commissioner shows up for work on their first day, he or she will already have accomplished as much for Georgia's consumers as Hudgens did in his entire two terms.

Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, a news service at gareport.com that reports on state government and politics. He can be reached at tcrawford@gareport.com.

 

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