Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade. Keith M. Phaneuf /
This is a picture of Katharine Wade, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's pick for insurance chief
Katharine Wade, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s pick for insurance chief Keith M. Phaneuf / The CT Mirror
Katharine Wade, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s pick for insurance chief Keith M. Phaneuf / The CT Mirror

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has named a former Cigna lobbyist to lead the state’s insurance department, an agency that regulates what is by some measures the largest insurance industry in the nation.

Katharine L. Wade spent 21 years at Cigna, working primarily in government affairs positions. She left the company in 2013, after serving as vice president for public policy, government affairs and U.S. compliance, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Wade, 49, lives in Simsbury and will be paid $160,000 per year. She is the daughter-in-law of James Wade, a longtime Democratic Party insider.

During a press conference to announce the appointment, Malloy said he saw Wade as a partner in fighting to preserve the state-by-state insurance regulation system. Malloy said he has concerns about intrusion into state regulation by both European companies seeking to impose European rules and the federal government.

“In selecting Katie, I selected somebody who I thought had the appropriate level of experience with respect to regulatory matters, as well as a state-by-state understanding of the industry, as well as a fear of greater intrusion by the federal government as well as our European allies,” the governor said.

Wade said that in her 22-year career, she had learned what’s important in regulation.

“I look forward to working in this administration, with the General Assembly, and policymakers, to protect consumers and to provide a business climate so insurers can embrace innovation, invent new products and services, and grow Connecticut’s economy,” she said.

When asked whether he was concerned about perceived impropriety in appointing the daughter-in-law of a prominent Democratic fundraiser, Malloy answered, “No.”

Malloy said he considered about 15 candidates, some of whom he invited to apply. One of the candidates was Anne Melissa Dowling, who has served as deputy insurance commissioner since 2011 and who was responsible for the department’s day-to-day operations while the previous commissioner, Thomas B. Leonardi, traveled extensively. She has led the department as acting commissioner since Leonardi left the department in December to join the investment banking advisory firm Evercore.

Malloy said Dowling had done an “outstanding job,” but declined to say why she was not selected for the position.

The insurance department has 159 employees and a budget of close to $29 million. It is funded through an assessment on insurance carriers, not the state’s general fund, which pays for most state agencies.

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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