Texas Legislator Raises Questions About CHIP Insurer

July 28, 2004

A Texas lawmaker says an insurance company recently awarded a state contract to manage health care services for about 95,000 low-income children may not be financially strong enough for the task, the Associated Press and the Houston Chronicle reported.

State Insurance Commissioner José Montemayor was asked by Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, to investigate the contractor, Bankers Reserve Insurance Co. of Wisconsin, which does business as Superior HealthPlan Network.

Superior has received a contract, effective Sept. 1, from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to manage the children’s health insurance program, or CHIP, in about 170 primarily rural counties.

Taylor, who is an insurance agent, wrote Montemayor that the insurance rating service A.M. Best gave no member of Superior’s parent company, Centene Corp., anything better than a “C++.”

That rating, Taylor wrote, is “predominantly given to small companies for which A.M. Best does not have sufficient financial information.”

Superior won a competitive bid for the contract, said Kristie Zamarazil, spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Commission.

“The new contract will be fully insured,” she told the Houston Chronicle. “We held Superior to the same standards we held every other bidder to. Superior met every requirement.”

Montemayor was traveling and unavailable to respond to Taylor’s letter.

Superior was scheduled to succeed Clarendon National Insurance Co. as a CHIP contractor. The Clarendon contract expires on Aug. 31.

The state auditor earlier this month criticized the Health and Human Services Commission for overpaying Clarendon by $20 million. Clarendon has denied the overpayment.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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