Dennis Anderson says that the office of state insurance commissioner has become a little more exciting since the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — was passed by Congress 2010.
Some healthcare entities across Kansas have expressed disappointment that Gov. Sam Brownback has kept the state out of the Medicaid expansion portion of the law, which covers those who fall in between the income gaps of very poor and poor-but-not-poor-enough.
Anderson, a Smith Center native and a graduate of Kansas State University with a degree in agricultural economics, is the lone Democrat looking to take the job left open by current commissioner Sandy Praeger, who is retiring.
Five Republicans are looking to challenge.
Anderson, who now lives in Overland Park, stopped by The Mercury earlier this week while on the campaign trail.
“If Sandy weren’t retiring I wouldn’t be sitting here,” said Anderson, who began a family business in 1979 that trains insurance agents. “She’s done a fine job running the department and protecting things that need to be protected.
“There would be no reason to run against someone who’s doing a good job. See, I’m not a politician. This isn’t a career I chose years ago like some others that are in office.
“I’m the moderate voice in this race. The opponents are pretty much beating on and talking about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or ‘Obamacare’ as they like to call it, and not expanding Medicaid.”
Anderson said when it comes to those issues, he sides with Praeger, who is a Republican.
“I happen to agree with Sandy Praeger’s positions on these things,” he said. “While the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect — there remain things that need to be improved and worked on — but it is a fact of life and there are some good aspects of it.
“The expansion of Medicaid, it would help a lot of rural hospitals. There are things that border outside the boundaries of what the Department of Insurance even has to say.
“The commissioner doesn’t have a hand on the lever for Medicaid expansion, but we should be a strong voice of reason and communicate with people on what impact (these issues) have on their lives. There’s a lot of misinformation out there.”
Overall though, Anderson doesn’t believe insurance should be as exciting as it has been lately.
“Insurance is supposed to be boring because you’re supposed to know the end of the story,” he said. “When you pay your premiums and something bad happens you’re supposed to be reimbursed.”
But that’s not what he’s heard on the campaign trail, and said if elected, he’d like to tour the state with town hall meetings conversing with people about their insurance experiences.
“I want to travel the state to each county seat and have an insurance claims town hall meeting,” he said. “Because as I’ve been out here on the campaign trail, I’m hearing from people who may not have been treated fairly by their insurance company.
“A lady the other day told me she had an appendectomy and the insurance company denied her claim because they considered it to be an elective surgery. I don’t know about you, but if I had an appendectomy I’m going to have my appendix out or I’m in a whale of hurt.”
Anderson said they weren’t all medical complaints, either.
“On the property side, people have been good, premium payers without any claims for years, and all of a sudden they have wind and hail damage,” he said. “The company would repair the roof, or negotiate to repair the roof, but then they wouldn’t renew the policy or they’d cancel the policy after that.
“Those are issues that need to be worked out. The main job of the Department of Insurance is making sure insurance companies do the right thing and fulfill their promises in their contracts.”
Anderson said he’s running for the office because he wants to give back to the people of the state, and this is the best way he thinks he can do it.
“A lot of people I care about need help,” he said. “I have a family business I’ve run all these years, my parents are now retired and secure, and my sister runs the company. We’re small with 35 employees, and my wife is very supportive of it.
“For me, it’s that time in my life — I’ll be 57 next week — where it’s an opportunity to give back and help people. I suppose every man and woman gets to a certain point in their life where they think, ‘You know, it’s time for me to do something for others.’
“I’m clumsy with tools — I can’t volunteer with Habitat For Humanity because I’d shoot myself with a nail-gun — but I understand insurance.”