February 11, 2009 10:14 AM MST                                                  Contact:Lucas Hamilton

Montana State Auditor-elect Monica Lindeen announced on Feb. 6 the appointment of Laura McGee to the position of Assistant Deputy Insurance Commissioner in the State Auditor's Office.

      Lindeen has appointed Browning High School graduate Laura McGee Assistant Deputy Insurance Commissioner.
      The Montana State Auditor's office is a criminal justice agency charged with protecting Montana's consumers through insurance and securities regulation, and also through informing the public about insurance and securities issues. McGee, who graduated from Browning High School, is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe.
      "Laura brings a wealth of experience and knowledge that will serve the people of Montana well," Lindeen said. "She shares my commitment to ensuring Montanans are treated fairly by the insurance and securities industries, that we find solutions which ensure access to quality and affordable health care, and that our state lands are well managed for the futures of our children."
      State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau also voiced support for McGee's appointment. "I am so proud of Laura becoming Assistant Deputy Insurance Commissioner," said Juneau. "She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to her new job and will be a great asset for Auditor Lindeen and the work of their office."
      Laura and husband, Dan, have three children, Tiara, Danny and Aliyah. Dan is currently a math teacher and assistant football coach at Highwood High School. This past November, Dan's football team won the state six-man football title 20 minutes after his daughter, Tiara, won the state volleyball title. All three children attend school in Highwood.
      McGee says she looks forward to using her experience building long-term relationships with customers and developing significant marketing and outreach programs for the benefit of all Montanans. "This is a great opportunity to serve the people of Montana," she said.
      March 31, 2008
      State Auditor John Morrison today filed a “friend of the court” brief in a United States Supreme Court case involving worker rights under group health and disability insurance. The brief was filed on behalf of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners at Morrison’s request.
      The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case -- Met Life v. Wanda Glen -- to address a question that has divided the U.S. courts of appeal: whether insurance companies that deny group health or disability insurance claims should be given deference by courts reviewing the claim denial, or whether such insurers are operating under a "conflict of interest" that precludes deference. The issue involves interpretation of the expansive and complicated federal law known as ERISA.
      "Our position is that insurance companies evaluating claims that they will have to pay always have a conflict of interest," Morrison said. "Their denials definitely should not be given more weight than the evidence of workers and their employers that claims should be paid."
      Glenn was an injured worker who filed for benefits under her employer-sponsored disability income insurance plan. The plan contained a "discretionary clause" that has been construed as creating a presumption that the insurer's claim denial was correct.
      The case raises questions related closely to the discretionary clause issues decided by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy recently in Standard Insurance v. Morrison. The Standard case involved the authority of the insurance commissioner to remove the discretionary clauses that create the presumption in favor of an insurer that denies a claim. The Met Life case asks whether, when the discretionary clause has not been removed by an insurance commissioner, the presumption should still be given at all to insurance companies that have a conflict of interest because they are both deciding and paying claims.
      ERISA law professor Mark Debofsky of Chicago said the insurance commissioner brief should be given great weight by the high Court. "I think the Court will be very interested in what the nation's insurance regulators say on this issue," he said. "It's a strong brief that addresses an issue that affects millions of Americans."
      Briefing in the case should be completed in the next month and the case may be argued this year.