Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

November 2, 2011

State Insurance Commissioner addresses Rotarians

AMERICUS — At their weekly meeting Tuesday the Rotary Club of Americus heard a presentation from State Insurance Commissioner Ralph T. Hudgens, who took office in January after being in elected Nov. 2, 2010.

Hudgens told the Rotarians what he considered to be his chief responsibilities as Georgia’s Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner. First Hudgens said he wants to protect consumers. He said there are 1600 insurance companies that sell their products to the public and he wants to ensure that they live up to their contractual obligations. Secondly, Hudgens said he wants Georgia to be the best in the United States in “doing business.”  

“The more people we have competing, the sharper they’re going to be,” he said.

In addition, Commissioner Hudgens said he has made some changes in the Department of Insurance since January, including consolidating the divisions of life and health and property. He has also made efforts to make the department responsive to industry in areas of insurance product approval and allowing rates to go up or down as the industry demands. “I don’t want to be an impediment,” Hudgens said.

Another area of emphasis for the new Commissioner is fraud. He said the General Assembly agreed to give the department an additional $600,000 to “beef up” fraud investigation. Hudgens said placing more focus on fraud as already “paid rich dividends.”

Hudgens shared his view Tuesday that the federal health care reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is unconstitutional. He said Georgia is one of the 26 states that have challenged the Act’s mandate that requires all Americans to purchase some type of health insurance policy.

He described the mandate as essentially a “tax on existence.” He said income, property and sales taxes are all imposed when and individual chooses to purchase something.

Hudgens did say that the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that States form health insurance exchange advisory committees is a good idea. He said its is better to have a state committee is better than the federal government coming in and providing a “one size fits all solution.”

Hudgens also announced that insurance companies will have the ability to provide a much wider range of products beginning Nov. 8. He explained that any insurance product approved for sale in another state can be duplicated by a Georgia Company.

As stated in his biography from the Ga. Office of Insurance website:

A resident of Winterville, Hudgens is Ga. Insurance Commissioner and also the Safety Fire Commissioner, Industrial Loan Commissioner, and Comptroller General. His duties include regulating approximately 1,600 insurance companies, licensing 137,000 insurance agents, and regulating over 1,000 industrial loan offices (companies that make loans of $3,000 or less).

As Safety Fire Commissioner, Hudgens appoints the State Fire Marshal, oversees the state arson unit, regulates explosive and hazardous materials, and is responsible for the inspection of public buildings for compliance with the state fire code.

After nearly two decades working in the private sector, Hudgens started Quality Propane, Inc. which he sold in 1987. Today, he owns and operates several successful businesses, and understands first-hand how insurance premiums impact companies of all sizes. Hudgens’ public service began with an appointment in the first Bush administration. He went on to be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1996 where he served until his election to the State Senate in 2002.

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