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Both insurance commissioner candidates call for reform in debate

Delaware Department of Insurance

While lambasting the current state insurance commissioner, both candidates running to succeed Karen Weldin Stewart (D) only took slight jabs at each other during a forum Wednesday night.

Republican Jeff Cragg and Democrat Trinidad Navarro both say insurance rates are too high in Delaware and that current policies benefit the industry more than customers.


They blame Stewart for being too close to insurance companies and approving high rate increases – the most recent for individual plans on the Affordable Care Act market totalling nearly 35 percent.


Navarro took a harder line than Cragg on crafting more consumer-friendly laws, noting that independent actuaries should be proposing rate increases – not company number crunchers.


He also says the lack of competition among Delaware hospitals and healthcare providers is what’s driving up rates.


“It’s not the doctors who are making large sums of money, it’s the hospitals. When you have no competition, when you have a monopoly here in the State of Delaware, this is what happens,” Navarro said.


Cragg says the entire system must be fixed and consumers better educated so they don’t go to the emergency room to treat less serious conditions.


Later in the night, Navarro pegged Cragg as an industry insider who’s too close to corporate interests.


Cragg responded that it takes someone with experience to run the office effectively – likening himself to a seasoned pitcher ready to move up to the major leagues.


“If you don’t have the experience and you don’t have the background, you might will it as much as you want, but you’re not going to be able to be successful. It’s a complex business and it’s not the kind of thing you start when you’re 45-years-old and say, ‘I want to learn something about insurance.’”


Navarro briefly worked as an insurance agent before serving nearly 20 years in law enforcement, while Cragg owns his own insurance firm, with nearly 25 years of industry experience.


Hosted by the League of Women Voters of Kent County, the candidate forum also featured those running for U.S. House.


State Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover South), who's running for governor, could not make the event due to an illness.


Democratic gubernatorial hopeful John Carney chose not to debate his Green Party opponent, Andrew Groff, who was present.


Republican La Mar Gunn also declined to debate his lieutenant governor opponent state Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown), but had staffers hand out campaign leaflets to attendees after the event.


Voters head to the polls Nov. 8.