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Franchini to retire from insurance post

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The office that regulates insurance in New Mexico will have new leadership for the first time in nearly a decade.

The state’s longtime superintendent of insurance, John G. Franchini, withdrew his application for another four-year term this week and announced his retirement instead.

John Franchini

He dropped out of the running just days before a nominating committee is set to interview the remaining eight candidates and select a new superintendent. The term begins Jan. 1.

In a letter to the nine-person nominating panel, Franchini said he originally applied to ensure the insurance superintendent’s office “continues on its successful path. I am now confident that the Nominating Committee has a strong field of applicants from which to choose my successor.”

The superintendent regulates insurance companies in New Mexico, oversees the Patient’s Compensation Fund and manages about 100 full-time employees. The office works to resolve customer complaints, combat fraud and monitor the financial health of insurance companies.

Franchini’s departure comes after a series of controversies over the past few years, including:

• The failure to collect nearly $65 million in premium taxes owed by health insurance companies, reported in a special audit in 2017.

• A legal fight centering on which entities are entitled to tap into the state Patient’s Compensation Fund to pay malpractice liabilities. The 2017 lawsuit was filed by current and former New Mexico Medical Society presidents.

Franchini had worked in the insurance industry for 35 years before becoming the state’s insurance superintendent in 2010. He is a past president of the New Mexico Insurance Association.

Among the accomplishments he has highlighted during his tenure is a sharp increase in revenue for the insurance office. Revenue nearly doubled from 2013 to 2018.

The customer-assistance teams in the office also helped recover nearly $10 million over a five-year period, Franchini said in annual report.

Now eight people are seeking the job – Roberta Baca, Laura Causer, Robert Doucette, Joel Fierro, Justin Goodman, Denise Hall, R. Foster Seaton and Russell Toal.

Diane Denish, a former lieutenant governor of New Mexico and chairwoman of the nominating committee, said it’s a strong group.

“I think they all have strengths,” she said. “I do feel like we have a good pool.”

Interviews are scheduled Saturday in Albuquerque, and an appointment is expected.

The job is expected to pay $156,000 a year, or roughly in line with the salary of state Cabinet secretaries.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Legislature each appointed four members to the nominating committee. The eight appointees chose Denish to serve as the ninth member and preside over meetings as chairwoman.

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