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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

July 25, 2014 at 9:37 PM

Becker slams insurance-office report’s ‘selective use of facts’

Sen. Randi Becker

Sen. Randi Becker

State Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville and chair of the Senate Health Care committee, isn’t going to let go of Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s tangle with his administrative-law judge, who was placed on leave in May after accusing her supervisor at the insurance office of trying to influence her on insurance cases she adjudicates.

Becker, who has been displeased with Kreidler’s office in the past, slammed the investigator’s “selective use of facts,” but said it was “no surprise.”

“From the beginning, I knew that by placing one of the parties [administrative-law judge Patricia Petersen] on leave and not the other, Commissioner Kreidler had already determined the outcome of this case,” Becker said in a statement released late Friday.

The investigator’s conclusion, she went on, “is a clear reflection of the agency culture Judge Petersen was fighting. The Commissioner determines how he wants his cases played out. We now know the Commissioner also determines how he wants his ‘independent investigations’ played out.”

Petersen’s role, as administrative-law judge, was to independently rule on contested cases before her. Last fall, she opposed the Office of the Insurance Commissioner in a high-profile case involving Seattle Children’s hospital. It was then, she said in a whistleblower complaint to the state, she began being pressured by her supervisor.

An independent investigator’s report released Thursday said her supervisor, who remained on the job, wasn’t actually trying to pressure her. The report blamed  Petersen, a long-time employee of the insurance department, for not reporting her problem with him sooner (she said she was trying to help him understand the rules that prohibited him from talking to her about cases).

The report also blamed Petersen for what she said was a slip-up, accidentally emailing a copy of her whistleblower complaint to a lawyer involved in a high-profile case she was hearing. The investigator said Petersen wasn’t truthful about that.

Becker said she was worried about the report’s effect on other state agency employees. “In light of this report, I don’t see how we can encourage agency employees to report misconduct and impropriety,” she said.

Kreidler on Thursday said the report, by a Seattle law firm, was thorough, independent and supported the actions he took to “protect the integrity of the legal proceedings brought before my office….”

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