Insurance commissioner primary features familiar face
Charlotte Republican Ronald Pierce will again challenge incumbent Commissioner of Insurance and fellow Republican Mike Causey. In 2016, Pierce finished third in a field of three in the contest for the Republican nomination that eventually went to Causey. One candidate — Causey or Pierce — will face the Democrat Causey beat in 2016, Wayne Goodwin.
The Smoky Mountain News: Many voters aren’t sure what, exactly, the commissioner of insurance does.
Mike Causey: It affects their pocketbook every day. We regulate a number of things that people don't realize we regulate. For example, we're the chief building inspector for the state, so we're over the state building code council, all engineering codes, electrical contractors. Just the whole list of things, which you could get more details from the website, ncdoi.com but most people don't have a clue that that is —unless they're in the business industry — they don't realize it's under the Department of Insurance.
We also regulate collection agencies, like if somebody gets a harassing letter or a phone call. That collection agency has to be properly licensed through the Department of Insurance to do those things. We also regulate loan companies, these finance companies that loan money on your household goods. That's a big deal to a large segment of the population. This is a little trivia, now, but it's pretty interesting — this year is the 75th anniversary of sworn law enforcement under the Department of Insurance of North Carolina. North Carolina was the first state in the nation to put sworn law enforcement officers in a department of insurance. That happened in 1945.
One thing I've done since I've been elected commissioner is I've doubled the size of our Criminal Investigation Division. When I took office, we only had 20 sworn law enforcement officers to cover the whole state. Today, we have 44 and growing and we have regional offices in Asheville, Charlotte, Archdale and Wilmington.
We also regulate bail bonds, which is a big thing. We have a whole group, it's called the fraud control group because insurance fraud is a major problem that we all pay for, about 20 cents of every dollar people pay for insurance premiums goes to cover insurance fraud. Health care fraud is huge. I mean, there's so much fraud. There's fraud in Medicaid, there's fraud in Medicare. There's fraud in the providers — it's just something that we take seriously.
Very few people realize that the [DOI] has sole responsibility for about every property the state of North Carolina owns, which is paid for by the taxpayer. So North Carolina has over 13,000 buildings, including our university system and we have over 16,000 total properties. So the Office of Risk Management has to make sure those buildings are properly covered for insurance purposes.
Ronald Pierce: In 2018 there was $57 billion in one year for insurance premiums — businesses, worker's comp, general liability. All insurance companies of every type must go through the North Carolina Department of Insurance.
I want to put that in relation to the state of North Carolina, which has a $24 billion budget for one year. There's 170 people in charge of that, all the members of the House, all the members of the Senate — in charge of $24 billion. But then again, the [DOI] has $57 billion in just one year of insurance premiums. One person is in charge of that.
Then you have what is called the North Carolina Rate Bureau that sets rates for the state of North Carolina on property and auto. Then we come into bail bonds. Now all the bail bonds and people getting out of jail, all of that's licensed. If you add all of the bail bonds, all of the insurance, all of the building, and that includes all the skyscrapers and everything, that’s $1.2 trillion that comes up under the department of insurance. So it affects every day of your life, whether you know it or not.
SMN: Why should Republican Primary Election voters choose you?
Pierce: You take all of that together, the value of that in just one year is $1.2 trillion and there's no oversight. The governor cannot do anything to the commissioner of insurance. That's why you have a lot of corruption and I've been fighting corruption for many years. The insurance companies — if they go ahead and they get enough money and they buy off the commissioner of insurance, they basically are able to just do what they want to do. And that's part of the problem that's going on today. Back in 2012, I started writing letters of complaint because I'm a general contractor in Charlotte. I'm one of those guys that has to put your home back together after a fire. The insurance companies that I meet up with and the insurance adjusters lie to me each and every day. They misquote the law. They misquote what they're going to cover on the insurance policy. The difference is, I actually know insurance law.
Causey: Well, my platform when I ran in 2016 was to make the Department of Insurance more user-friendly, so that when people call that office, they get treated with respect and dignity and courtesy. And I believe we've done that and I would like to continue that.
We're over all fire departments, rescue squads, and I'm a big fan and supporter of our volunteer firefighters, and I want to continue to do everything we can to help volunteer fire fighters. When I took over the [DOI], the first thing I did was go out and meet the different managers and the people there, right there from the start. The majority of people that work for the state I believe are not very political. They just try to do the job and we really did have some good employees at the department and I've retained the vast majority of those folks. I will tell you that you will not find a harder working group of people than the employees at the North Carolina [DOI].
Commissioner of Insurance
Mike Causey (i)
Residence: Guilford County
Occupation: Former insurance industry employee
Political experience: Two-term insurance commissioner, unsuccessful 2016 campaign for U.S. House
Political experience: Unsuccessful 2016 primary campaign against Causey