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Longtime advocate: Insurance chief from Louisiana could be bad news for consumers

Robert Hunter has spent decades in the insurance industry as a consumer advocate. When he heard the name of the man being considered for the state's insurance regulator job, he was "shocked." 

Gov. Rick Scott's office confirmed Monday that Ron Henderson, Louisiana's deputy insurance commissioner for consumer advocacy, is being considered as the replacement for Kevin McCarty, who has been commissioner of Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation since 2003 (and is favored by Hunter, incidentally).

"It's really shocking to me that a guy who's supposed to be in consumer advocacy I haven't heard of," said Hunter, who was Texas insurance commissioner and founder of the National Insurance Consumer Organization before his current job as insurance director for the Consumer Federation of America. "I know everyone who's done anything in consumer work." 

The size of Hunter's Rolodex aside, he said hiring an insurance regulator from Louisiana could be bad for consumers in Florida. 

The insurance commissioner plays a critical role in setting rates for property insurance, and Hunter said Louisiana's reputation for in the industry is decidedly not pro-consumer. 

"Louisiana's one of the worst states in the country for insurance regulation," he said. "They just don't regulate. They've done a very bad job protecting consumers." 

Insurance rates in Louisiana have risen twice as fast as the rest of the country, said Hunter, who recently started a study on 20 years of rate increases.