GUEST COLUMN

Maine’s insurance chief played a vital role with skill

Posted May 19, 2011, at 10:27 p.m.

Maine’s superintendent of insurance, Mila Kofman, has tendered her resignation and will be leaving her post later this month. I can appreciate her decision; however, I for one will be sad to see her go.

I expect that we will hear that underlying Mila’s resignation is a great conspiracy laced with friction between the superintendent and new administration. After all, Mila was appointed by former Gov. John Baldacci. The philosophies of the previous and current governor are clearly quite different. I, however, don’t see a conspiracy at all.

I see shared goals with respectful differences in philosophies on how to achieve those goals. It only makes sense for the administration to desire a superintendent who is more closely aligned with their policy objectives, and it speaks volumes of the superintendent’s grace in recognizing that and stepping aside to allow the administration the flexibility to seek that compatibility. It is that grace and professionalism that I want to speak to, based on my personal experiences with Mila Kofman.

I have served as the president of the Maine Association of Health Underwriters, a trade association of professional insurance agents, for the entire tenure of the superintendent. During that period, I have had the opportunity to work closely with Mila Kofman on many occasions. Through those professional interactions, I have developed great respect, both professionally and personally, for our superintendent.

Professionally, I have found Kofman to be extremely knowledgeable and appreciative of the important role of professional insurance agents. She clearly understands the consult and advocacy agents provide to consumers in the insurance market. These are volatile times for the insurance industry, with fundamental changes with the passage of the Affordable Care Act during her tenure.

The escalating costs of health insurance have placed increased pressure on insurer expenses and profits, resulting in increased pressure on agent compensation. There have been multiple attempts to ease those pressures by reducing or eliminating the role of agents. Mila Kofman, however, has been steadfast in her defense of the professional agent community, recognizing that it is consumers who suffer without access to professional agents.

The superintendent not only has been an advocate for agents locally but also has played a vital role in her capacity with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Kofman has served on several committees and working groups charged with analysis and implementation of different aspects of the Affordable Care Act. She consistently has sought input and advice in her approach to ensure that she approached each objective thoughtfully and thoroughly.

I consistently have received feedback from our national association staff noting Kofman’s important role during these meetings. She has been influential in building consensus among different factions and ensuring that thoughtful persistence prevailed.

Personally, I have found Kofman to be thoughtful, accessible, and attentive to the needs and concerns of myself and our association members. It may sound like a simple thing to be available, pleasant and friendly in your associations, but it is not a given, especially in positions of authority.

Every time I have placed a call to the superintendent, I have received a call back from her personally. Every email I have sent has been returned personally. Every time I have asked a question, every effort has been made to find an answer. Every concern I have raised she has made her own concern to resolve.

Clearly, philosophical differences will persist in our society, especially around such controversial topics as health insurance and health care. Mila Kofman has demonstrated that those differences do not have to create barriers to solving problems and serving our communities. That is especially evident in her graceful departure from her current post in support of a new administration in Augusta.

Join me in wishing Mila Kofman the very best in her future endeavors. I am confident that in the next phase of her career she will continue to serve with kindness and dignity. I for one will miss her at the Bureau of Insurance, but I will carry her friendship with me wherever she finds herself in the next chapter of her life.

Joel Allumbaugh is president of the Maine Association of Health Underwriters and can be reached at joel@nwbgroup.com.

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