CTNewsJunkie file photo
Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade (CTNewsJunkie file photo)

Prompted by a call from Connecticut organizations, Democracy for America, a national organization headed by Jim Dean, is calling for the governor to replace Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade when it comes to her regulatory oversight of the Anthem-Cigna merger.

In a statement, Dean said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy should replace Wade and “end the clear conflict of interest she has in the government’s due diligence process over the Anthem-Cigna merger.”

Wade, who last worked at Cigna in 2013 as vice president Public Policy, Government Affairs and U.S. Compliance, was nominated to the post by Malloy in March 2015 and approved by the General Assembly. Following her appointment, Republican lawmakers raised questions about her ability to oversee the merger. Wade requested a ruling from the State Ethics Citizen Advisory Commission, which found there was no conflict of interest in Wade overseeing the merger.

“It has been nearly two years since I was an employee at Cigna and I have no financial interest in the company,” Wade told lawmakers during her confirmation hearing last April. “I am prepared to recuse myself from any matter involving Cigna with which I had an active involvement. This merger is not a matter in which I was involved in any way.”

In a six-page letter the to Office of State Ethics back in September 2015, Wade said she shouldn’t have to recuse herself from the matter because Anthem is the applicant, and not Cigna. Wade also pointed out that the application will be evaluated by the department’s staff and an independent economist. Wade plans to appoint a hearing officer. The department is planning a public hearing on the proposal, unlike its decision not to hold one for the Aetna-Humana merger.

But Dean is weighing in following an article in the International Business Times last week that again raised questions about Wade’s relationship with the insurance industry. Wade’s husband still works as an attorney for Cigna, but according to information provided to the State Ethics Commission, neither own a vested share of the company.

“The Connecticut working families who will bear the costs of further insurance industry consolidation in the Constitution State deserve to know that their Governor and his administration is fighting for their interests, not investors who want to profit from less competition,” Dean said in a statement. “Anything less than an open, public, independent, and transparent process surrounding the Cigna-Aetna merger would legitimately call into question the ethics of our state government.”

The Insurance Department and the governor’s office declined comment.

The Connecticut Citizens Action Group sent out an email to its members Thursday referencing the story in the International Business Times. They said if the allegations made in that story aren’t bad enough Wade decided not to hold any hearing on the Aetna-Humana merger.

“Her refusal to use any of her leverage to protect Connecticut jobs and consumers in this proposed deal, combined with her unethical behavior on the proposed Cigna deal, says to us that she is still working for the insurance companies in stacking the deck against the rest of us,” Tom Swan, executive director of CCAG, wrote.

The Connecticut State Medical Society sent a Freedom of Information request earlier this week to the Insurance Department requesting more information about the decision not to hold a hearing on the Aetna-Humana merger.

The Universal Healthcare Foundation of Connecticut said in light of the recent revelation that the Aetna-Humana merger was approved without a public hearing Malloy should start fresh and appoint someone without a conflict to oversee the Anthem-Cigna merger.

“Given her close connections to Cigna, Wade’s oversight of the merger review process does not bode well for Connecticut residents receiving the benefit of unbiased, fair and transparent oversight, specifically when it comes to the review of the Anthem-Cigna merger,” the foundation said in a press release.

Citing the International Business Times article, Frances Padilla, president of the Universal Healthcare Foundation of Connecticut, said, “These latest developments are a clarion call to Governor Malloy to guarantee the health and financial interests of Connecticut residents do not fall victim to the influence of the powerful and privileged insurance industry.”

Padilla and her organization called for Wade to resign.

“We cannot allow business as usual with this mega-merger, which will impact 64 percent of the private health insurance market in Connecticut,” Padilla said. “Connecticut residents must be protected.”