Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ken Selzer victorious in Kansas Insurance Commissioner's race

By Dave Ranney
KHI News Service

TOPEKA, KAN. — Ken Selzer, a conservative Republican who supports repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Kansas’ participation in a multi-state compact designed to allow member states to take control of their Medicare programs, has been elected Kansas insurance commissioner.

Selzer, 61, defeated Dennis Anderson, a Democrat, in the general election Tuesday.

"The message we got from people all across Kansas tonight is that they are looking for someone to really focus on the issues and to bring a business-like approach to an important state department," Selzer said during a telephone interview shortly after Anderson conceded defeat.

At the time, Selzer, who lives in Leawood, had captured 60 percent of the statewide vote.

He succeeds Sandy Praeger, a moderate Republican from Lawrence who chose not to seek a fourth four-year term.

Praeger had endorsed Anderson in September due to his support for expanding eligibility for the state’s Medicaid program, which Selzer opposes.

Anderson, 57, leads an Overland Park-based company that trains and provides continuing education courses for insurance agents. Like Praeger, he had expressed support for implementation of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, and for expanding the state’s Medicaid program. He opposed Kansas legislators’ decision to join the compact.

Selzer said he was committed to ensuring a "seamless transition" between his and Praeger's administrations.

He downplayed the office's role in implementing the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid or defining the parameters of the health care compact.

"Those are legislative issues," he said. "They're for the Legislature to decide. I'll be focusing my attention on the three things that the office is required to do, and that's educate and advocate for consumers, regulate insurance companies, and license insurance agents."

Selzer, who grew up in Marion and McPherson counties, is an executive managing partner with Aon Benfield, a global insurance and consulting firm. His office is in Kansas City, Mo. He has a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California. He’s also a certified public accountant.

He said he will resign his position with Aon Benfield before he’s sworn in as insurance commissioner on Jan. 12.

The Kansas Insurance Department is charged with ensuring the financial solvency of companies that sell health, life and property insurance in Kansas; enforcing regulatory compliance; educating and assisting consumers; and licensing agents.

In its 143-year history, the department has had one Democrat commissioner, Kathleen Sebelius, who later was twice elected governor before joining President Obama’s Cabinet as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Sebelius and Praeger are the only women to have been elected Kansas insurance commissioner.

Mark Peterson, chair of the political science department at Washburn University, said that despite Praeger’s decision to endorse Anderson, the insurance commissioner’s race didn’t seem to pique much interest among voters.

“It was a curious race in that we had the candidates talking about Obamacare and the health care compact when, in reality, as insurance commissioner they won’t have much authority over either question,” Peterson said. “It was sort of like they were grasping at straws to get the public to pay attention, but I don’t sense that the public did pay attention.”

Peterson called the race “one of the closest (on the ballot) to being a straight-party vote.”