Executive Council confirms N.H.’s new Insurance Commissioner 

  • The State House dome is seen on Nov. 18, 2016, as the restoration project nears completion. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Monitor staff
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Executive Council unanimously approved John Elias as Commissioner of the Department of Insurance on Wednesday, clearing the way for him to replace Roger Sevigny in June after 16 years in the post.

In approving Elias, the Executive Council green-lit a relative newcomer to the position. Elias has two years of experience in the department, serving as assistant commissioner since April 2016 after a brief time leading the property and casualty department. But the bulk of his background lies in the private auto insurance industry in Ohio.

Elias spent seven years working for Westfield Insurance Co. in Ohio and focusing on employment insurance, according to a resume provided by the governor’s office. He later became vice president of underwriting at Safe Auto Insurance Company in Columbus in 2007, and in 2013 he started his own insurance consultancy, JP Elias Inc., which he ran until selling it in 2015.

At the New Hampshire Insurance Department, Elias focused on managing property insurance operations, building up claims data software and overseeing the fraud department. As commissioner, he would continue those efforts as head of the department, he said during a confirmation hearing last week. He would also seek to ease regulations where possible, he said.

On Wednesday, some executive councilors raised concerns about Elias’s lack of background in the field of health insurance.

“He really does need to rely on others and reach out to them often to make up for his lack of experience with health insurance,” said Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, ahead of the vote.

But others praised Elias’s track record within the Ddepartment and noted the support of Sevigny and industry representatives for his nomination.

Councilor Russell Prescott acknowledged the differences between managing auto and property insurance markets – which are relatively stable – and New Hampshire’s health insurance market, which has proved volatile in recent years as medical costs rise and insurers pull out. But he said Elias’s background could give him fresh perspective at the head of the department.

“It is from that background of being in property and casualty, where insurance is a little bit more black and white – he’s going to try and make sure we bring that to the (health) side,” Prescott said.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)