AUGUSTA — Maine’s top insurance regulator is quitting her job over philosophical disagreements with Gov. Paul LePage over health care reform.

Superintendent of Insurance Mila Kofman, who has four years left in a five-year term, is not a political appointee and can’t be fired for political reasons.

In a letter to LePage dated May 3, Kofman wrote that she will step down because she and LePage have a different approach to reforming Maine’s health insurance system.

“I recognize that health care reform is one of your top priorities,” she wrote. “I also recognize your need to have a regulator who shares your philosophy.”

Kofman’s resignation, effective June 1, was announced Monday, shortly before the Maine Senate began debating L.D. 1333, the GOP’s major health insurance reform legislation. The Senate approved the bill.

While LePage didn’t fire Kofman, he made her job so difficult that she was forced to resign, some Democrats said.

“She was bullied out,” said Rep. Bruce MacDonald, D-Boothbay.

Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, the ranking House Democrat on the Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee, said Kofman hadn’t been attending committee meetings in recent months and wasn’t allowed to have much input in drafting or analyzing L.D. 1333.

Treat said that resigning was the only way for Kofman to preserve her professional integrity.

The LePage administration, “put her in an untenable situation where she was not allowed to do her job,” Treat said.

LePage’s spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said he did not force Kofman out and is “very appreciative” of her service.

Democratic Gov. John Baldacci first appointed Kofman to the post in 2008, and reappointed her a year ago.

Kofman had a contentious relationship with the insurance industry. In March, for example, she announced that the Bureau of Insurance had recovered nearly $3.5 million for Maine consumers and businesses. It also imposed $1.2 million in fines.

The bureau’s Property and Casualty Division and Consumer Health Care Division recovered the money after investigating allegations that insurance companies had not properly paid claims.

The two divisions handled more than 9,000 inquiries and received nearly 1,000 formal complaints in 2010.

Before joining the bureau in 2008, Kofman was project director at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.

In a statement released Monday, Anne Head, commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, praised Kofman’s leadership in making insurance for cars and homes more affordable relative to other states.

Kofman could not be reached for comment Monday.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 699-6261 or at: [email protected]