Insurance company profits of interest

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COLUMBIA - Insurance companies are making millions off of South Carolina's workers' compensation program, Senate President Pro Temp Glenn McConnell said Thursday.

"With workers' compensation reform being debated, don't you think that this General Assembly cannot turn its head to the fact that the insurance companies appeared to have been grazing on an oat field, some of them, apparently ... while this state is suffering higher and higher rates?" he asked.

"You're absolutely correct," said Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau. "The profit seems to be obscene."

Lawmakers focused a lot on what to do with the Department of Insurance this week, posing tough questions to Director Eleanor Kitzman, approving the appointment of Scott Richardson as her successor and introducing legislation to allow the people of South Carolina to elect an insurance director, instead of having the governor appoint the position.

Early in the week, House members questioned Ms. Kitzman as to why, after meeting with property owners in Myrtle Beach, she didn't expand the area covered by the wind pool in order to make wind insurance more available.

"Did the governor prevent you from moving or expanding the wind pool?" Rep. Tracy Edge, R-Myrtle Beach, asked.

"I guess, technically, I could've given the order to move or expand the wind pool, but I probably would've been fired," she said.

Ms. Kitzman resigned under pressure, and Gov. Mark Sanford announced earlier this month that Mr. Richardson would be replacing her, pending Senate approval, which was granted Thursday.

Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach, said the situation gives strength to his argument that the public, not the governor, should choose the insurance director.

"The public doesn't trust the insurance industry, and I don't believe they trust the governor's appointment of someone to watch out for the consumers when they allow things to go on as has been happening in the last few years ... tripling the profits (that) the insurance industry is allowed to reap off the consumer's back with no oversight, no accountability," he said.

Reach Kirsten Singleton at kirsten.singleton@morris.com.

ALSO THIS WEEK


- A plan to cap the growth of government spending got key approval in the House on Thursday.


- The Senate approved a bill that requires DNA samples taken from anyone arrested for a felony or a crime that has a prison sentence of at least five years.


- Morris News Service


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