Washington State’s Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) is embroiled in controversy involving allegations of unduly influencing an independent judge charged with reviewing third party complaints over insurance plans offered by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange’s Healthplanfinder.
As the OIC’s Chief Presiding Officer, Patricia Petersen’s task is to act as an “administrative law judge” who makes “impartial, independent decisions on cases” the public brings against the OIC. Petersen’s primary responsibility is to oversee cases involving Washington State’s implementation of Obamacare. Last week, Peterson claimed that Chief Deputy Insurance Commissioner James Odiorne, second to Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, “inappropriately tried to influence the outcome of her cases.”
“Odiorne instructed me to go meet with the Commissioner when I receive a case, find out how the Commissioner wants the case decided, and decide the case the way the commissioner wants.”
The pressure persisted despite Petersen’s warnings to Odiorne that “he was breaking state laws governing communication between judges and the parties involved in ongoing cases.”
Given both Kreidler and Odiorne’s ongoing refusals to comment on the allegations, we can only assume that the “inappropriate influence” on Petersen’s rulings came with the intent of covering-up Obamacare problems. The most outrageous part of the new revelation? Kreidler is not only refusing to comment, he is refusing to say whether or not he objects to the behavior Petersen describes as inappropriate influence by his second in command.
Kreidler’s only response to the corruption in his agency is this carefully worded statement: “The commissioner and chief deputy commissioner take the claims seriously and are taking the appropriate actions to protect the integrity of all legal proceedings before our office.”
Protecting the “integrity” of the office thus far has meant placing Petersen on paid leave and removing her “indefinitely from all cases.” As for Odiorne? He “continues to work at the OIC, and officials say he is not under investigation.”
According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, the OIC is currently “looking for an independent third party to review the claims in Petersen’s filing.” We look forward to learning what OIC views as an “independent third party.”