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Friday, 07 January 2011 17:11

Texas Insurance Commissioner Geeslin to Step Down Featured

Texas Insurance Commissioner Mike Geeslin has announced that he will not seek another term as head of the Texas Department of Insurance. His term ends Feb. 1, 2011.

Geeslin has been with TDI for eight years, and has served as commissioner for five and a half years. Gov. Rick Perry appointed Geeslin to the post in June 2005, just months before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Texas and Louisiana coasts in August and September of that year.

Geeslin, who had served as Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the Texas Department of Insurance since 2003, found himself not only faced with presiding over one of the largest insurance markets in the nation, but directing recovery efforts in Texas for both hurricanes, as well.

In addition, a complete overhaul of the state’s workers’ compensation system was initiated in September 2005. Then, less than a year after the hurricane catastrophes, Geeslin was faced with placing one of Texas’ largest homeowners insurers, Vesta Texas Select, into rehabilitation and then liquidation.

Geeslin’s tenure also has been marked by disputes with two of the state’s largest homeowners insurers — State Farm and Allstate — over homeowners insurance rates.

In 2007, Geeslin ordered Allstate Lloyd’s to refund Texas policyholders for alleged overcharges stemming from 2004. The department in 2008 reached an agreement with Allstate under which the company would pass on to policyholders an estimated $71,300,000 in refunds, credits and rate reductions.

In 2009, Geeslin ordered State Farm to refund some $310 million to policyholders for what the department determined were overcharges beginning in 2003. The insurer appealed the order and the case has been involved in court proceedings since that time.

In a letter to the Gov. Perry, Geeslin said his decision to leave the post was based on many considerations; the foremost being family, and another, a “simple realization that it is time for someone else to lead.”

Since 2005 when Geeslin took over the commissioner’s office, the Texas market has grown from $78 billion to $102 billion, one of the largest in the United States and among the top ten in the world, according to a statement released by the department.

The commissioner’s job is a tough one and Geeslin gained the respect of insurance industry representatives during his tenure.

“Commissioner Geeslin has balanced the needs of consumers and the insurance industry with skill and genuine concern for the well-being of both groups. He will be hard to replace,” said David VanDelinder, executive director of the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas.

The job of Texas insurance commissioner is “one of the most difficult and demanding jobs in state government,” said Mark Hanna, manager of public relations and membership for the Insurance Council of Texas.

“We certainly wish Commissioner Geeslin all the best in his future endeavors.”

Jerry Johns, president of the Southwestern Insurance Information Service, acknowledged that insurers have had disagreements with Commissioner Geeslin. However, Johns said, “we have found him to be open minded and willing to consider the positions of a variety of special interest groups.

His knowledge of how insurance works to the benefit of consumers and the insurance industry cannot be disputed. We wish him only the best moving forward and thank him for his service to Texas.”

In announcing his resignation, Gesslin commended TDI staff for their service and gave credited them with historic efforts. Among them:
* Responding to major hurricanes
* Merging the workers’ compensation and insurance agencies
* Implementing new regulatory structures, laws, and approaches to assisting consumers via the Web and on-line assistance
* Continuing efforts to improve market capacity and competitive pricing for the medical liability sector in the years following medical malpractice reforms
* Establishing programs to improve leadership, such as the TDI Excellence Program, and higher education through our TDI Academy brand
* Serving as the lead agency in creating the TexasSure verification system that helps to reduce the number of uninsured drivers
* Undergoing two consecutive Sunset reviews
* Ensuring solvency of key market sectors in an historic global economic downturn
* Increasing anti-fraud activity and continuing efforts to improve upon fire safety and investigation
* Establishing the Healthy Texas program as an option for small employer group health insurance
* Working to chart initial courses to enact federal health and financial reform legislation
* Engaging staff in developments in the international insurance arena to soundly position and protect Texas

During Geeslin’s time as commissioner, the department resolved consumer complaints totaling more than $220 million and took regulatory action against carriers and other regulated entities in excess of $800 million, with more than $600 million of these dollars attributable to homeowner rate actions.

Geeslin said he does not have any immediate future plans, and remains committed to ensuring a smooth transition. He described his tenure at TDI as “the experience of a lifetime,” but added that “it is time to commence with change.”

A successor for the Insurance Commissioner position has not yet been named. Mark Hanna said it best when he said Geeslin’s successor will find that it’s “one of the most difficult and demanding jobs” in government.

For more information please visit www.tdi.state.tx.us.

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