Insurance commissioner candidates tangle over Obamacare

DOVER — Upcoming premiums are expected to rise significantly under President Obama’s healthcare law, while provider options dwindle for many consumers at the same time.

Delaware’s next Insurance Commissioner — Democrat Trinidad Navarro or Republican Jeffrey Cragg — will take office early next year in perilous times with an aging population to protect.

Mr. Navarro said, “The Affordable Care Act has accomplished significant progress by expanding coverage to millions of Americans and countless Delawareans.

“However, it is not a perfect policy. The costs and rates associated with the ACA are not sustainable for consumers and/or small businesses.”

vote-logo-2016Mr. Cragg was initially angry when reports of rising ACA costs surfaced.

“This is just so unnecessary and truly damaging to people lives,” he said. “The ACA needs serious reforms or replacement, we need to keep the expanded coverage, and include some serious cost control.”

Concern over a single high cost health plan “for Delaware consumers guarantees us a noncompetitive market and bad choices for those (all of us) who are healthcare consumers,” Mr. Cragg said.

While many are eligible for healthcare subsidies that will drop cost noticeably, Mr. Navarro believes the limited marketplace itself is a hindrance to benefiting the public.

“Consolidation of companies and providers has reduced competition leaving consumers with very little options,” he said. “In an effort to keep rates low, I will work to bolster competition in the marketplace by attracting new insurance companies to Delaware to offer consumers more choices.”

Trinidad Navarro

Trinidad Navarro

The potential of teaming with neighboring states to create a regional exchange system needs is something Mr. Navarro wants to evaluate.

According to Mr. Cragg, “Delaware cannot afford a 32.5 percent premium increase that was just approved for Individual coverage. I have the experience and knowledge to solve this difficult problem. It will require all the stakeholders at the table, and will require both Dover and Washington to respond.”

Pointing to his experience as a health insurance plan director and certification by the Fellow Life Management Institute and Academy of American Life Underwriting – industry designations specific to health coverage – Mr. Cragg believes he can, “effectively fix this problem for Delaware. High cost and reduced choices are no longer an option.

“I want to be the Insurance Commissioner who dedicates my time in office to solving this problem, we can do this.”

Jeff Cragg

Jeff Cragg

Adding in his knowledge of being a current small business owner, Mr. Cragg believes he’s the more qualified candidate for office. He believes his expertise trumps any potential drawbacks of an outnumbered party affiliation, pointing to GOP members Ken Simpler as state treasurer and Tom Wagner as state auditor who have expertise due to unique backgrounds that fit office requirements.

Mr. Cragg questions whether a country sheriff who he said represents the interests of large banks during foreclosure sales can transition seamlessly into being a consumer advocate.

Touting his accomplishments as sheriff, Mr. Navarro said his office recovered more than $1.1 million in late payments from banks that had foreclosed on homeowners by pursuing delinquent accounts. He said he’s been a watchdog for hundreds of individual foreclosure cases to assure homeowners receiving all proceeds they were entitled to.

Mr. Cragg cites his 24-year professional background in a leadership role for providing life, health and disability coverages to small businesses in 38 states affecting tens of thousands of insured.

Previously, Mr. Cragg worked with insurance companies such as Northwestern National Life, Mutual of Omaha, Provident Indemnity Life, Employers Reinsurance, A-G Administrators, Inc. and Academic Risk. His Mailbox Store family business is nearing its 26th year of existence, 20 in the same location.

Citing years of handling his elderly father’s insurance-related health issues – blindness, wheelchair bound and requiring dialysis three times a week – Mr. Navarro said he’s learned first-hand the complexities of advocating for those in need of proper coverage. He was a licensed insurance agent prior to becoming a New Castle County Police Department officer and sheriff.

Also, Mr. Navarro has 25 years of public service and “standing up for people” and said Mr. Cragg hasn’t had an insurance license in over a decade. His sheriff’s office has worked on a lean budget and staffing while working to return money to rightful benefactors, Mr. Navarro said.

From Jan. 1 to Oct. 9, financial disclosure reports showed Mr. Navarro had $40,000 in cash for his campaign, while Mr. Cragg had $2,700,

Mr. Navarro unseated two-time incumbent Karen Weldin-Stewart in September’s Democratic primary, with Mr. Cragg besting George Parish.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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