Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade’s decision to suspend her review of the proposed merger between Anthem and Cigna has not gotten her out of hot water.
The Citizens Ethics Advisory Board, which has responded to a petition by Common Cause Connecticut, will continue with a review of whether Wade should recuse herself from reviewing the $54 billion Anthem-Cigna deal.
“It’s going to go forward anyway,” said Nancy Nicolescu, spokeswoman for the Connecticut Office of State Ethics.
A final decision by the advisory board, which is binding but can be appealed to Superior Court, is expected on or before Sept. 30, Nicolescu said. But a draft decision could be released as early as Sept. 15, she said.
Wade is a former Cigna lobbyist whose husband still works for the company.
After the Justice Department on Thursday filed suit to block the Anthem-Cigna merger, and another merger proposed by Aetna and Humana, the Connecticut Insurance Department said it would stop its examination of the Anthem-Cigna deal.
“As a result of the federal antitrust lawsuit, the Connecticut Insurance Department has immediately suspended its review of Anthem’s Form A application,” said insurance department spokeswoman Donna Tommelleo.
Wade had been designated the lead among 28 state insurance regulators who were vetting the Anthem-Cigna deal. She was responsible for assessing whether the merger meets standards set forth in a state law, called the Insurance Holding Company Act.
She approved the Aetna-Humana merger in January.
Wade did not seek a formal ruling from the Office of State Ethics before she began her review of the $54 billion insurance merger, but instead sent the Office of State Ethics a six-page letter in September advising it of her decision to review and take action on the Anthem application.
The Office of State Ethics decided there was no conflict of interest.
But the Citizens Ethics Advisory Board, which held a hearing on the issue Thursday, may come to a different decision.
Calls for Wade’s recusal have come from a number of advocacy groups, state House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney and State Comptroller Kevin Lembo.
Wade is also under fire from GOP state lawmakers who say she violated the law in responding to their FOI request on her communications about the Anthem-Cigna deal. Last week they asked the state Freedom of Information Commission to penalize the insurance commissioner.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and Sens. Michael McLachlan of Danbury and Kevin Kelly of Stratford said the Insurance Department produced only nine pages of Anthem-Cigna documents in response to their freedom-of-information request, while the Office of State Ethics produced hundreds of pages of documents it had received from the insurance regulators.
“In light of the failure to provide nearly 500 pages of what another state agency has deemed to be public records, we are outraged at the Department of Insurance and their attempt to keep the public in the dark regarding a high profile merger that reeks with conflicts,” the Republican senators said
Nicole Rall, spokeswoman for the state Senate Republican Caucus, said the effort by the GOP senators will continue, despite Wade’s decision to suspend consideration of the Anthem-Cigna merger.
“She still did not hand over all the information we requested,” she said.
The Citizens Ethics Advisory Board met Thursday on the Wade case. Video is available.
Capitol Bureau Chief Mark Pazniokas contributed to this story.