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Archive for Friday, August 31, 2001

Praeger to seek statewide office

Lawrence state senator will run in GOP primary for insurance commissioner in 2002

August 31, 2001

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— State Sen. Sandy Praeger of Lawrence said Thursday she will run for state insurance commissioner in the 2002 Republican Party primary.

She will face a longtime foe and counterpart in the House, State Rep. Bob Tomlinson of Roeland Park.

Both Praeger and Tomlinson this week filed documents with the Secretary of State's Office indicating their intention to run. Several others have discussed running for the post, but no one else has filed. Tomlinson filed Wednesday. Praeger filed Thursday.

The current commissioner, Democrat Kathleen Sebelius, is running for governor.

Praeger said she wants to be insurance commissioner because there are many challenges ahead in balancing the rights of consumers and insurance companies.

"It's how do you find the balance. I want to be part of finding solutions," she said.

Praeger is vice president of the Senate and chairwoman of the Senate committee that deals with insurance issues.

She has been a longtime advocate on health issues and for expansion of insurance coverage. During the last legislative session, she was one of the driving forces behind passage of a law requiring that insurers provide coverage for mental illness to the same extent that they cover other types of sickness.

On that issue, as with several others, she fought Tomlinson, who is chairman of the House Insurance Committee. Tomlinson said the so-called mental health parity bill would drive up the cost of everyone's insurance.

Praeger argued mental illnesses should be covered as a matter of fairness.

She also said any increase in premiums would be offset in the long run because more costly care would be reduced by giving early treatment.

Before Sebelius became insurance commissioner, the post was held for decades by a succession of Lawrence Republicans, including Frank Sullivan, Fletcher Bell and Ron Todd.

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