The 160 employees of the Arkansas Insurance Department do many things, but job one is consumer protection, Russ Galbraith says.
“That’s the overall mission,” said Galbraith, the state’s chief deputy insurance commissioner.
“We have 16 different divisions that focus on multiple aspects of insurance regulation or are internal services for the Department such as HR, IT, accounting, etc.”
The department makes sure that insurance companies are solvent, and it works to deter and prosecute insurance fraud.
“Those are in our mission; they’re in statute,” Galbraith said.
“We have our Consumer Services Division, which helps Arkansas consumers when they have a complaint or issue with a company,” Galbraith said.
Last year, the division recovered $6 million for Arkansans “that they may not have gotten otherwise,” Galbraith said. “And we do that for free to the public, because that’s just what our staff is trained to do.”
The department also licenses all insurance agents and producers operating in the state, whether they are based in Arkansas or elsewhere.
In his annual report for 2022, Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Alan McClain wrote that the department licensed 200,671 insurance producers and adjusters, as well as 12,304 business entities. In the 2023 fiscal year, the department collected more than $486 million in taxes and fees. Operating the department cost under $11.5 million, just 2.5% of its revenue.
The department’s Accounting Division collects and oversees fees and premium taxes from all insurance companies conducting business in Arkansas. It also handles all purchasing and accounts payable to the department, and develops annual budgets.
The Finance Division employs “highly skilled and trained examiners and accountants” who keep tabs on insurers’ solvency, Galbraith said.
The department’s Criminal Investigation Division, made up of certified law enforcement officers, investigates fraud reports and builds criminal cases for prosecution. The investigators are present for insurance fraud arrests and are armed on the job.
“Our fraud division goes after all types of insurance fraud, whether it’s [automobile] crash rings or people trying to sell fake insurance cards,” Galbraith said.
In fiscal 2023, the division investigated 538 fraud complaints and referred 143 for prosecution, resulting in 91 convictions.
The national Coalition Against Insurance Fraud says that insurance fraud costs American businesses and consumers nearly $309 billion a year.