Thursday, November 27, 2014

Senior members of insurance department staff to leave with Praeger

KHI News Service 

TOPEKA, KAN. — Several senior officials in the Kansas Insurance Department will be leaving their posts as Commissioner Sandy Praeger concludes her third and final term.

Four division directors have announced plans to retire, effective Dec. 5. Among them, they have more than 125 years of experience at the department.

Praeger, who was first elected in 2002, didn’t seek a fourth term.

Ken Selzer, an insurance industry executive from Leawood, will succeed her in January.

Selzer defeated four rivals for the GOP nomination and then defeated Democrat Dennis Anderson in the general election.

Praeger, a moderate Republican, bucked the party line in Kansas by generally supporting the Affordable Care Act. Selzer, a member of the GOP’s conservative wing, is opposed to the ACA. Selzer supports Kansas’ membership in a multi-state health care compact, which Praeger opposes.
If approved by Congress, the compact would exempt states from federal health regulations and possibly allow them to administer federal health care programs, including Medicare, within their borders.

Given Selzer’s differences with Praeger on key issues and her long tenure, it was anticipated that he would want to make significant changes in the department’s senior staff.

The four directors who are retiring as Praeger leaves office are Marlyn Burch, Ted Clark, Steve O’Neil and Neil Woerman.

Praeger, in a prepared statement, said Kansans owe the departing officials a “tremendous thanks” for their years of “outstanding service to insurance consumers and to state government.”

Burch, director of the department’s life insurance division, is retiring after 53 years at the regulatory agency. He served under five elected commissioners since starting at the department in 1961.

Clark, a former member of the Topeka Police Department and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, was director of the insurance department’s anti-fraud division. While at the agency, he headed the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Anti-Fraud Task Force.

O’Neil headed the consumer assistance office.

Woerman, who served as chief of staff to former Attorney General Bob Stephan, arrived at the insurance department with Praeger. He oversaw a modernization of the department’s information technology and helped spearhead similar improvements in other states as chair of the Information Systems Task Force in the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.