Often critical of new federal law, Holland to face an ‘ObamaCare’ critic

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 14-Jun-2010

In the November election, Oklahoma Commissioner of Insurance Kim Holland, a Democrat who has criticized the new federal health care law, will face one of three Republicans contending in the July 27 primary. Each of her foes is making opposition to what they deem “ObamaCare” a key campaign issue.

In a recent interview with CapitolBeatOK, Commissioner Holland said, “We’re running to continue the great work we’ve done so far. I want to make sure that the federal government doesn’t steamroll Oklahoma, and that we have good policy for the people of Oklahoma.” U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, among others, pointed to Holland’s critiques of some parts of the federal law in making his own case against it.

Holland, who came to office as an appointee after her predecessors grew mired in controversy and scandal, was elected to a full term in 2006, and is now seeking a second four-year hitch.

Concerning allegations that dogged two straight predecessors (Republican John Crawford and Democrat Carroll Fisher), Holland reflected, “I don’t think I can overdo assuring the people of Oklahoma that I’m devoted to being a good public servant. … They want public servants to be squeaky clean and I’m doing what it takes on that front, as well.”

She said her disclosure forms are “pretty boring,” because “it’s easier just to draw a bright line” against accepting things of value “than to have any confusion about that.” Asked to assess a ballot proposition that would put Oklahomans on record as opposed to the new federal health care law, Holland commented, “I’m going to let the lawyers and the politicians deal with that. My job is to assure that Oklahoma has a future in health care regardless of how those arguments turn out.”

Asked if there could be negative implications from passage of such a measure by state voters, she replied, “There is a great deal of ambiguity about how the issue as a whole is going to play out, whether it terms of the federal law itself or the state’s efforts to step out of parts of the bill. I have shared my concerns all along and spoke with a loud voice to members of our congressional delegation.

“Concerning the future, there is a great deal of latitude for the states, a certain amount of autonomy, but we have to work within the framework of federal law. My job in any case is advocating for the citizens of Oklahoma.

“From my standpoint, this is an office for the people. When someone’s home gets blown away, they shouldn’t have to care about my political party, or the party of any commissioner. Oklahomans like to do things their own way, and to some extent the argument about health care has demonstrated that. “

Although Holland has the advantage of incumbency, the two Republican hopefuls could make her reelection difficult. A Sooner Poll in March, gave a narrow “generic Republican” advantage in the upcoming election, albeit with a hefty 36.8 percent of those surveyed saying they were undecided.

Doak, a Tulsa-area insurer, told CapitolBeatOK last week, “Oklahoma needs a conservative voice, a commissioner who is on the people’s side, politically. I want to unseat a public official who was a 2008 Obama delegate. I am running on a campaign that is anti-ObamaCare.”

He continued, “We need a commissioner who will work to reform workers compensation and medical malpractice provisions. I support Association health plans.”

In the prepared statement he provided to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, Doak said, “The office of insurance commissioner should be used to protect Oklahoma citizens from paying higher health care costs and taxes while improving Oklahoma’s economy by drawing more companies to our state.”

Doak, who has worked in a variety of insurance jobs, said that, if elected, he would enter office as “a conservative voice against ObamaCare. As insurance commissioner, I will vocally oppose socialized health care and government mandated insurance while advocating for association health plans, which would immediately provide cost savings and options for business owners to fight rising health care costs.”

The re-entry of former Commissioner John Crawford, a Democrat-turned-Republican from Oklahoma City, was one of the surprises of last week’s filing period. In a release sent to CapitolBeatOK, Crawford said, “I will fight ObamaCare with all the authority of my office.”

He continued, “The most important duty of the Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner is to insure the financial stability of insurance companies.  Actuaries prepare the reserve requirements and are responsible for the financial solvency of insurance companies.”

Crawford, touting his status as former commissioner, said, “I understand the complexities of solvency, I have prepared financial statements for insurance companies and I have prepared hundreds of financial statement that are filed with insurance departments all over the country.  I am the only candidate for the office of Insurance Commissioner with these qualifications.

“I’ve done the job before and I’m ready to bring conservative, experienced leadership again at the State Insurance Department to fight for real reform, protect policy holders and reduce costs.”

In a position paper provided to CapitolBeatOK, Crawford elaborated, “ I believe the federal mandated health care takeover is unconstitutional and I will work with other elected leaders at the state and federal level to provide the information and backup they need to fight this issue as vigorously as possible.

Crawford explained, “I will work to create a workable system in Oklahoma that will provide a working example that other states can use health care policies for younger uninsured and increasing competition by allowing health insurance companies to sell policies over state lines, just like car insurance, are a few of the reforms that must be passed before we destroy the health insurance industry and begin the destruction of the capitalist foundations our country is built on.”

Also running as a Republican is Mark Croucher of Jenks.