New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance Plans More Consumer Awareness | Local News


I bet you don’t think much of the state office of the superintendent of insurance.

Yet most people who work or have a home, auto, or insurance policy are affected by what happens in a state agency that regulates everything related to insurance – from the granting of licenses to brokers and agents to draft insurance rules and deal with consumer complaints.

In just its sixth year as an autonomous state agency, the office – or OSI – is under new management after Russell Toal replaced longtime Superintendent John Franchini on January 1.

Long-time insurance expert, whose resume includes government stays in Georgia and New Mexico, Toal said handling of consumer issues has not been strong since the office became an independent agency in 2014. .

But that, he said, will change.

New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance Russell Toal.

“One of the things I want to strengthen is to look at consumer concerns,” Toal said. “We need to be friendlier than we are. I want us to look a lot more forward. I want to have more education and public awareness. We need to let people know what we can do for them.

OSI oversees the obvious categories: home, life, auto, health, and home insurance. But there is a bewildering array of other policies, such as prepaid funeral insurance and insurance on credit cards or household appliances.

The office is responsible for investigating fraud on both sides: brokers / agents and clients. Toal said there are more consumer frauds, such as people falsely claiming a car has been stolen, than fraud by agents.

Either way, he said, “The office stays busy.”

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New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance Russell Toal.

Toal became superintendent after spending one year as assistant secretary for the New Mexico Department of Human Services and three years as assistant director and business manager for the New Mexico Medicaid program.

Initially, his plan was to retire to Santa Fe with his wife, Beth McGown. Toal, 68, had spent his career since the mid-1970s in Georgia after earning a master’s degree in public health, health policy and administration from the University of North Carolina.

He describes his alma mater as “a funnel to Atlanta,” where the headquarters of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is and where the US Food & Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency are located. of the United States have a major presence. He has twice led the Medicaid program in Georgia.

Over the decades, he was also the first chairman of the Georgia Cancer Coalition and the first commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health, which included Medicaid and the state health benefit plan for state employees and school staff. Toal was also the first President and CEO of Georgia1st, a statewide network of physicians and hospitals owned and operated by network providers.

He and his wife bought a house in Santa Fe in 2010. They had visited New Mexico for many years, while McGown’s two sisters went to the University of New Mexico and remained in the state. McGown’s parents have also retired to New Mexico.

Their retirement came on Memorial Day weekend in 2014. But instead of retiring, Toal was recruited to serve as deputy director of the medical assistance division within the social services department. from New Mexico. He knew the then director, Julie Weinberg, at the national meetings they attended, and the outgoing deputy director had worked for him in Georgia many years before.

Frustration with the administration of former Governor Susana Martinez led Toal to move into Privy Council in 2017, returning to the Social Services Department as part of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s transition team. He was surprised by the offer to become deputy director of social services, a position he held until 2019.

Now he plans to postpone retirement for at least four years, the length of his term as superintendent of insurance.

“When you are faced with this opportunity to make a difference, you have to seize it,” Toal said. “I find this work exciting and more important, rewarding.

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New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance Russell Toal works in his office on Tuesday, February 25, 2020.

A state insurance nominating committee selected Toal from a pool of 11 candidates, though three withdrew, including Franchini, who decided to retire.

Toal impressed the committee with his experience in insurance, Medicaid, senior management in Georgia and also the past five years in and outside the New Mexico government, said committee chair Diane Denish.

“He’s a very good outreach person,” said Denish, a former lieutenant governor of New Mexico. “He’s very responsive. This is a huge advantage to government today.

Toal has his visions for the office, which has around 90 employees, but recognizes uncertainties over the Affordable Care Act are driving it.

“A lot will depend on what happens with the ACA,” he said.


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