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December 14, 2018

CT insurance commissioner to depart

HBJ PHOTO | Matt Pilon Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade.

Insurance Department Commissioner Katharine Wade will depart her role on Dec. 19, three weeks ahead of the inauguration of Gov.-elect Ned Lamont, officials announced Friday.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appointed Wade, a former Cigna executive, in March 2015, several months after the resignation of Malloy’s first insurance commissioner, Thomas Leonardi.

Filling in for Wade on an interim basis until Lamont nominates a commissioner will be Paul Lombardo, an actuary who directs the department’s Life and Health Division.

Wade has not announced what she plans to do next, but wrote in an email to staff that she intends to “pursue other professional opportunities.”

“My successor will have the opportunity to work with committed team of professionals whose focus has always been, and will continue to be, protecting the consumers of the State of Connecticut,” Wade wrote in the email.

In a statement, Malloy credited Wade with strengthening consumer protections, creating better network standards for health insurers, expanding choice in the marketplace, and increasing consumer education and outreach.

“Her endeavors and accomplishments helped to solidify the state’s standing as an important voice regarding insurance regulatory matters on the national and international stage,” the governor said.

In her nearly four years in the job, Wade oversaw the continued expansion of the captive insurance market in Connecticut, ushered nonprofit health insurer HealthyCT into liquidation, instituted annual public hearings on health insurance rate requests, and more recently, engaged with the insurtech sector, and rebuffed the Trump administration’s attempts to offer short-term and association health plans, which can skirt Obamacare’s essential health benefits requirements.

Wade has also faced controversy related to insurance mergers and acquisitions.

CID approved Aetna’s proposed acquisition of Humana in Jan. 2016 -- a deal that eventually failed after federal antitrust regulators challenged it in court -- and didn’t publicly announce it for four months.

A coalition of physicians and others sought documents related to the approval, which Wade refused to provide, citing nondisclosure statutes. In 2017, the state Freedom of Information Commission fined her $500 for refusing to comply with its order to release non-exempt documents related to the deal.

Wade approved CVS Health’s acquisition of Aetna in October.

She was also criticized for her involvement in another ultimately unsuccessful deal, between Anthem and Cigna.

Common Cause, some lawmakers, and Comptroller Kevin Lembo called on Wade to recuse herself from the review process, due to her former job at Cigna and the fact that her husband was still employed there.

She refused at first, stating that neither she nor her husband held any Cigna stock.

In the end, her department never issued any decision on the proposed deal because the DOJ sued to block it (at the same time it sued to block the Aetna-Humana deal).

Later, Wade said she would recuse herself, should the deal survive the court battle (which it did not).

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