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October 12, 2007

California insurance commissioner pays visit to Napa

California’s second highest ranking Republican official dropped in on Napa Thursday, addressing the Napa Valley Republican Women as the group toasted its 60th birthday.

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, expected by some pundits to make a run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is termed out in 2010, criticized the precarious finances of the state.

“I think California is way off track,” he told Napa Republicans Thursday. “I think our economic engine is sputtering. We’ve gone from first to worst in so many categories.”

He more or less dodged a question about his political future. “I’m focusing right now on being the best insurance commissioner I can be,” said Poizner, who beat former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to win the commissioner job and has been in office for 10 months.

While most Californians may be unaware of what the insurance commissioner does, Poizner said he has been at work cracking down on insurance fraud, whether lawbreakers are found in doctors’ offices, behind the wheel of vehicles or involved in the workers’ compensation system.

Poizner treated the Napa Valley Republican Women’s luncheon like a convention speech, moving seamlessly from keeping the room in stitches to reeling off eye-popping statistics about insurance, insurance fraud and outlining his ideas for strengthening the state.

Examples include the fact that the insurance industry is a $120 billion a year business in California, representing about 15 percent of the total state economy.

Bad traffic? Poizner offers another economic eye-popper: It costs the state $20 billion a year in lost productivity.

Then there’s humor: While campaigning for insurance commissioner door-to-door in Palo Alto, he said he ran into a 12-year-old girl who pointed him out ruefully as “the capitalist.”

“I felt like I met Barbara Boxer as a child,” he said to laughs.

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Posted by healthinsurance at October 12, 2007 03:46 PM