|Patricia D. Petersen
Chief Hearing Officer
Title 48 RCW gives to the Washington State Insurance Commissioner (Commissioner) the duty to regulate the activities of insurance companies, health care service contractors, health maintenance organizations, and individuals engaged in the business of insurance and other related activities. As part of these duties, 1) RCW 48.31.010(1) requires that, after a hearing, the Commissioner must formally approve or disapprove any proposals whereby a domestic insurer will merge or consolidate with another insurer; 2) RCW 48.31B.015(4) requires that, after a hearing, the Commissioner must formally approve or disapprove any proposals whereby any individual or entity will merge with or otherwise acquire control of a domestic insurer or entity controlling a domestic insurer; 3) RCW 48.31C.020 requires that, after a hearing, the Commissioner must formally approve or disapprove any proposals where by any individual or entity will acquire control of a foreign health carrier registered to do business in this state; 4) RCW 48.31C.030 requires that, after a hearing, the Commissioner must formally approve or disapprove any proposals whereby any individual or entity will acquire control of a domestic health carrier; 5) RCW 48.31B.025(11) provides that an individual or entity may file a disclaimer of affiliation with an authorized insurer and the Commissioner may, only after a hearing, disallow said disclaimer; 6) RCW 48.31C.040(10) provides that an individual or entity may file a disclaimer of affiliation with an authorized health carrier and the Commissioner may, only after a hearing, disallow said disclaimer. Pursuant to these statutes, in order to grant approval of any such proposed transaction, the Commissioner must first hold a hearing and formally adjudicate specific criteria which are included in these statutes. Only after such a hearing can the Commissioner either approve or disapprove the proposed transaction.
One of the criteria which is always required in such proceedings is a finding whether the Commissioner has given reasonable notice to interested parties and whether, in response to such notice or other information received, any interested party has raised any objection to the proposed transaction. In the past, and up until the current time, the Commissioner has determined that reasonable notice must include notice published in the Washington State Register (State Register) a given number of times, depending upon the nature, significance and scope of the proposed transaction, in addition to other forms of notice which he may require. This notice includes a description of the proposed transaction, the consequences thereof, cites the applicable statues and criteria which will be at issue in the hearing and provides adequate time for interested parties to register their objections to the proposed transaction and/or appear at the hearing to contest it.
At this time, the Commissioner has now developed his own web site, which is readily accessible to the general public, without charge, over the internet. Over the past year, the Commissioner has published full notice of all of these proposed transactions just as he has done in the Washington State Register. Because now the Commissioner's own web site has been so developed, the Commissioner has determined that, effective immediately, notification of these proposed transactions in the Washington State Register will not be strictly required in all instances. Instead, the Commissioner will always publish notice of these proposed transactions on his own web site, may use other forms of notice, and may or may not publish a given proposed transaction in the Washington State Register. Therefore, while the Commissioner remains legally bound to provide "reasonable notice to all interested parties" and determine whether any reasonable objections exist as to all proposed transactions, this reasonable notice may not include publication in the Washington State Register.
Pursuant to WAC 284-02-020, the undersigned is delegated the primary responsibility for the conduct of hearings and the procedural matters preliminary thereto. The undersigned has determined that this change in notification in these types of proceedings is reasonable in that it continues to allow for, but no longer strictly requires, notification in the Washington State Register and leaves up to the Presiding Officer in each particular hearing the authority to determine whether reasonable notice has been given. Comments or concerns should be directed to the undersigned at the above address or telephone number.
ENTERED AT TUMWATER, WASHINGTON, this 6th day of October, 2004.
Patricia D. Petersen
Chief Hearing Officer
Office of the Insurance Commissioner