AUGUSTA — The head of the state's insurance regulatory agency announced her resignation Monday just hours before Republican lawmakers passed wholesale changes to Maine's health insurance laws.
Superintendent Mila Kofman, who headed the Maine Bureau of Insurance since March 2008, will leave her position as of June 1.
Kofman's resignation comes amid a bitter partisan battle over a fast-tracked Republican effort to overhaul state insurance laws. The legislation was enacted by the Senate Monday over objections from Democrats who said the bill needed additional analysis from Kofman's agency, the BOI.
Kofman's departure was announced just before the Senate voted mostly along party lines to pass LD 1333. The timing of the two events prompted some Democrats to say Kofman had been "muzzled" during the process leading up to the enactment of the health insurance bill.
Kofman, who will leave her post May 31, said Monday that she decided to leave the post shortly after Gov. Paul LePage was elected.
"I decided that it was best for him (LePage) to have his own person in here implementing his proposals," Kofman said.
Democrats ascribed other motives to her departure.
"Clearly, the governor would prefer to have a 'yes-man' rather than an effective regulator who provides objective information to the legislature or works for the consumer," said Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, in a news release.
Although the administration announced Kofman's departure today, her official resignation letter was delivered May 2, just two days after the Legislature's Insurance Committee voted along party lines to advance LD 1333.
Kofman denied suggestions that the vote prompted her departure. When asked why her resignation wasn't made public until Monday, two weeks after her letter to LePage, Kofman said, "You'll have to talk to the governor's office about that."
She added, "As long as I'm in this office, I work for the governor. ... I pretty much left it up to the administration to determine how they were going to handle the announcement."
But according to Adrienne Bennett, spokeswoman for LePage, the governor's office withheld the announcement at Kofman's request.
In her resignation letter to LePage, Kofman wrote, "I recognize that health reform is one of your top priorities. I also recognize your need to have a regulator who shares your philosophy."
She added, "Although we have many similar goals, including ensuring that all of Maine's businesses and people have access to more affordable health coverage options, we have different approaches of how to get there."
Kofman's agency did not participate in the drafting of LD 1333. However, the agency provided some analysis that resulted in changes to the bill, including late, a 19-page language modification that brought the legislation closer to compliance with federal law.
Kofman's agency also provided a 2007 analysis showing that changes similar to those proposed in LD 1333 could significantly increase insurance rates for older and rural Mainers.
Republicans said that the 2007 analysis was outdated and based on a different plan. Kofman said Monday that the study was still useful in showing the potential impacts of LD 1333.
Democrats said the analysis underscored the need for BOI to do a thorough actuarial analysis before enacting LD 1333. Republicans spurned those requests, saying that a full actuarial study would take up to a year.
Kofman said Monday that such a study would take "a couple of months."
Kofman was originally appointed by Gov. John Baldacci in 2008. She was reappointed last year to a five-year term. She was unanimously confirmed by the Legislature.
Kofman called "shocking" and "disturbing" suggestions that Republicans may have been worried that her analysis of LD 1333 would be tilted by ideology.
"I've worked very hard to produce expert analysis that is credible and evidence-based," she said. "There's no spin. We present all the facts, the good ones and the bad ones. We don't keep the bad facts out."
The administration on Monday praised Kofman's work at BOI, saying Maine's rate review process had become a national model under her watch.
State business regulation Commissioner Anne Head said Kofman made homeowners and auto insurance rates more affordable.
Prior to heading BOI, Kofman was on faculty at Georgetown University. Prior to that she served as a federal regulator at the U.S. Department of Labor.
Democrats said Kofman's departure was unfortunate.
"Mila is exceptionally knowledgeable and professional," Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said in a release. "It is most concerning to me that many of the changes that have occurred during this administration appear to favor loyalty over talent."
In her resignation letter, Kofman noted that she was proud of her work with the state, "most importantly of improving protections for Maine's consumers."
Democrats have argued that LD 1333 would scrap many of those consumer protections.