Archive for April, 2010

The Caesar Rodney Institute will provide live coverage of Tuesday’s hearings involving Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart, including both the 10 a.m. hearing arranged by Stewart in her offices, and the afternoon hearing at Legislative Hall, in which the commissioner will testify before the House and Senate insurance committees.

Look for updates throughout the day on our blog,  CRI’s twitter feeds from the afternoon hearings, as well as recap and analysis once the hearings have concluded.

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By Joanne Butler, Senior Fellow at CRI’s Center for Economic Policy and Analysis

Although many folks may not ever feel free from government these days, according to the Tax Foundation national “Tax Freedom Day” occurs on April 9th and the date for Delaware taxpayers is April 11th.  Freedom Day is the date at which taxpayers will have earned enough money to pay this year’s tax obligations at the federal, state and local levels.  It takes Delawareans 100 days to just pay their government tab.  When compared to the dates for other states, Delaware ranks 20th, with the worst ranking (#1) going to Connecticut (April 30) and the best ranking to Alaska (March 23).  The following are other current Tax Foundation rankings for the First State.

State and Local Per Capita Tax Burden (FY2008):  With a ranking of 16th, Delaware has a state and local per capita tax burden that is above the median (Wyoming, at #25).  When compared to its neighbors, Delaware has the lowest ranking.  Delaware also has a better ranking than Rhode Island (the other small East Coast state), and Virginia, which traditionally is viewed as a low-tax, business friendly state.


Tax Burden:

State & Local

Connecticut $7,007 1
New Jersey $6,610 2
Maryland $5,669 4
Virginia $4,669 9
Rhode Island $4,533 10
Pennsylvania $4,463 11
Washington State $4,334 15
Delaware $4,253 16
Wisconsin $4,194 17
Wyoming $3,714 25

State Business Tax Climate (2010) :  Delaware (#8) significantly outperformed its neighbors with regard to its business tax climate.  New Jersey is dead last (#50), with Maryland not far behind at #45 and struggling New York is #49.

State Rank
South Dakota 1
New Hampshire 7
Delaware 8
Washington State 9
Virginia 15
North Dakota 25
Pennsylvania 27
Maryland 45
New York 49
New Jersey 50

State and Local Tax Burden as a Percentage of State Income (FY2008):  Again, when compared to its neighbors, Delaware has a lower state and local tax burden as a percentage of state income.  New Jersey has the highest state and local tax burden as a percentage of state income.  Delaware ranks just above the median (Kentucky at #25).

State State & Local Taxes as

Percent of State Income

New Jersey 11.8% 1
Maryland 10.8% 4
Pennsylvania 10.2% 11
Virginia 9.8% 18
Massachusetts 9.5% 23
Delaware 9.5% 24
Kentucky 9.4% 25

State Debt Per Capita (FY2008):  Delaware’s state debt per capita is in the top 10 of the nation; it is higher than its neighbors, outpacing New Jersey by $471.  Significantly, Delaware is $3,332 above the median (Pennsylvania at #25).  This is a result of Delaware in recent fiscal years covering the gap between spending and revenues by floating debt.

State State Debt

Per Capita

Massachusetts $11,024 1
Connecticut $7,882 4
Delaware $6,574 5
New Jersey $6,103 6
Maryland $4,086 14
Pennsylvania $3,242 25
Virginia $2,820 31

Joanne Butler, Senior Research Fellow

Center for Economic Policy and Analysis

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In an A1 story published Wednesday by News Journal reporter Jonathan Starkey, Sen. Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, who chairs the Senate’s insurance committee, said she finds Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart’s decision to hold her own pre-meeting meeting “puzzling.” Blevins added she will not attend Stewart’s meeting, which the insurance commissioner scheduled three hours before the House and Senate insurance committees will question her in a public hearing.

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From an e-mail CRI received Tuesday at 4:11 p.m.






Dover, April 6, 2010 – Delaware Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart announced today that a public meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 13th, with the members of the House and Senate Insurance Committees.  The Commissioner had previously requested this meeting in a letter dated April 1st sent to both Senator Patricia Blevins and Representative Bryon Short, the chairpersons of the Senate and House Insurance Committees, respectively.  The purpose of the meeting is to discuss in detail the critical health care issue of the denials of medically necessary tests.   The meeting will be held at 10:00 AM at the offices of the Department of Insurance.

Commissioner Stewart stated, “Just about a month ago, members of my staff met with two prominent Delaware cardiologists to discuss and plan actions on this very issue of denial of tests and treatments.  This meeting constitutes the next step in the process.”

Invitations are also being extended to physicians, industry representatives, and patient rights advocates, as well as the United States Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee chaired by United States Senator Jay Rockefeller.  John Williams, the Committee’s Chief Investigator on health care issues, has confirmed that he will attend.

The Commissioner also announced that later in the same day she will be meeting with members of the legislature to give them a high level overview of the issue.

The Commissioner said, “From the day I was sworn in, the foundation of my policies regarding health care has been the same as the philosophy of the Mayo Clinic, namely ‘The Patient Comes First’.  Over the past year, I have met with cardiologists, pulmonologists, oncologists, emergency room doctors, etc., to discuss and develop policies, regulations and legislation to meet the many challenges that the current health care environment presents to providers and their patients.”  The Commissioner concluded, “For my department to successfully serve Delaware’s citizens, they and their physicians must promptly notify us of the difficulties they are encountering getting their tests covered, their claims paid, and with any other issues that we have the authority to address.  Where necessary, I will also contact the appropriate authorities regarding Medicare, ERISA plans and any other areas where we do not have jurisdiction, in order to make as certain as we can that our citizens are not at risk and their claims are paid in full and in a timely manner.  If any member of the public needs to contact the DOI, they should call the department’s Consumer hotline at 1-800-282-8611”.


This meeting was not and never intended as a “secret meeting”.  This press release was prepared, in part, on Monday, April 5th and sent electronically on the state e-mail system to the home e-mail of the DOI contact person on that date.  It was always intended as a public meeting.  Further, the subsequent meeting at Legislative Hall, is just that, a meeting requested by Commissioner Stewart to discuss health care and captive insurance issues.


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Delaware Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart wants to meet privately in her office with the House and Senate insurance committees at a meeting closed to the public.

By Lee Williams

Delaware Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart has scheduled a private meeting with the House and Senate insurance committees to be held behind closed doors, just three hours before these lawmakers will hold public hearings to examine her management of the department.

In an e-mail sent Monday evening to the members of the two committees, Stewart appears to be trying to preempt some of the questions she’ll likely face during the public hearings.

“On behalf of Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart, CIR-ML you are invited to attend a meeting regarding the processes utilized by health insurers that resulted in the denial of medically necessary tests requested by a patient’s physician,” Stewart’s administrative assistant Lorielee Harrison wrote in the e-mail. “The meeting will be held April 13th, 10:00 am at the Delaware Department of Insurance Office, 841 Silver Lake Blvd., Dover, DE in the Sussex County Room. A number of doctors, professionals from the medical community, insurance company executives and others will join in via telephone to help answer questions and concerns. Please RSVP to Lorielee Harrison at 674-7305 or Lorilee.harrison@state.de.us if you plan to attend.”

The Caesar Rodney Institute tried to RSVP with Harrison. No response was received.

Neither Stewart nor her chief of staff Elliott Jacobson would address the propriety of the closed-door meeting. They were not willing to be interviewed for this story.

“Why not provide this vital information during the legislative hearings, so the public can be informed,” said Shaun Fink, CRI’s executive vice president. “This closed-door meeting confirms the insurance department is not operating in the public interest.”

Last week, the chair of the House Banking and Insurance Committee Rep. Bryon Short, D-Highland Woods, has said he learned about problems within Stewart’s department after CRI released its special report titled: “Delaware Dept. of Insurance: Not in the public Interest.”

Short has said he wants Stewart to publicly answer allegations of impropriety that were raised by the Caesar Rodney Institute, as well as allegations she failed to sufficiently regulate a local insurer.

CRI’s nine-month investigation found that Delaware taxpayers might not be getting their fair share of the millions of dollars the department receives in fees and taxes from insurance companies it regulates.

Based on numerous interviews, court records and nearly a dozen Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, CRI uncovered questionable hiring practices, questionable contracts for campaign donors, failure to comply with state law and millions of taxpayer dollars paid to out-of-state consultants.

Short has said he had already planned to investigate whether Stewart ignored allegations Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware may have denied medical testing that was ordered by physicians. After reading CRI’s special report, he told the institute the issues it raised would be added to the agenda.

These public hearings are to be held at 1 p.m. on April 13 in the House Majority Hearing Room.

Contact investigative reporter Lee Williams at (302) 242-9272 or lee@caesarrodney.org

The Caesar Rodney Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan research and educational organization and is committed to being a catalyst for improved performance, accountability, and efficiency in Delaware government.

© Copyright April 6, 2010, by the Caesar Rodney Institute

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CRI Executive Vice President Shaun Fink guest-hosted WDEL’s Rick Jensen Show Monday. Shaun’s guests included economist and CRI board member Dr. John Stapleford and Rep. Ruth Briggs King.

Download the show: Hour One, Hour Two, Hour Three

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A story by News Journal reporter Jonathan Starkey sheds more sunlight on the upcoming legislative hearings.

News Journal assistant editorial page editor Ron Williams has written a second column about the DOI.

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