North Carolina's top insurance regulator is calling for the leader of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina to resign in the wake of the CEO's arrest on charges of driving while impaired and misdemeanor child abuse.
In a news conference Wednesday in Gastonia, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey accused the insurer of attempting to cover up the nature of Blue Cross NC CEO Patrick Conway's arrest.
Conway, 45, was charged after a June 22 accident. His two daughters were in the car, according to police. A video provided to The News & Observer Tuesday appears to show Conway weaving between lanes for several miles on Interstate 85 before sideswiping a tractor-trailer.
The arrest didn't come to light until news outlets reported it Sept. 19.
"I can deal with the criminal charges, even as disturbing as they are; what I cannot accept is the cover-up, the misrepresentation of facts, the lack of respect for oversight and regulation of the company and lack of respect for law enforcement officers who are only doing their duty," Causey said at a press conference.
"As a result of this lack of leadership and governance by the CEO and Board of Directors, I am today asking for the resignation of Dr. Patrick Conway as CEO for Blue Cross Blue Shield," Causey said, adding that his call "pains" him because Blue Cross has a good reputation.
"But there is no path forward for this office to have a trusting, confident and reliable working relationship with the chief executive officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC," he said.
Blue Cross board Chairman Frank Holding Jr. has said the board was satisfied Conway could stay on after going through a substance abuse assessment and a 30-day inpatient treatment. He has said the company didn't speak publicly "out of respect for the legal process underway in Randolph County, Dr. Conway's right to due process, and medical privacy concerns and obligations."
But on Wednesday, Causey said the Blue Cross NC board had misrepresented the arrest.
"The efforts by the board of directors to hide the arrest of their CEO for drunk driving and child neglect is very disturbing," he said. "When news accounts surfaced of the June 22 incident last week, the board misrepresented to the Department of Insurance the actual arrest -- telling me that the incident was without incident and was a routine arrest."
But, Causey added, news reports of the arrest showed it was not routine.
According to a confidential police report obtained by WRAL, Conway denied wrongdoing and later became "belligerent" at the police station.
The report quotes Conway saying: "'You had a choice. You could have let me go. You don't know who I am. I am a doctor, a CO of a company. I'll call Governor Cooper and get you in trouble,'" WRAL reported.
Cooper "was not involved in this incident in any way," spokesman Ford Porter told The N&O.
"Dr. Conway showed a complete lack of professionalism, respect and composure for the law enforcement officer and the legal process," Causey said of the arrest. "The fact that the board represented to this office otherwise is another example of poor judgment and misinformation that cannot be tolerated.
On Tuesday, Blue Cross NC said it was suspending a merger with Cambia, an Oregon-based insurer. The two companies announced their intentions to form a partnership in March, potentially covering around 6 million people with about $16 billion in combined revenue, the N&O previously reported.
The merger would need to be approved by Causey, a Republican, and several regulators in other states where Cambia operates.
The state of Washington's top insurance regulator also expressed dismay at the handling of Conway's arrest.
In a letter to the board of Cambia, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said he was "deeply troubled" by the lack of communication from Blue Cross NC and Cambia around the arrest.
Krieidler, a Democrat, said he learned only about Conway's June arrest on Sept. 19, the day news reports were published about the allegations. He said he learned about the arrest after Cambia CEO Mark Ganz asked for his personal cell phone number "to communicate an urgent message that could not wait until normal business hours."
"Both the board and CEO share the responsibility to deal with my office in a straightforward and honest fashion. Secrets are not permissible," he said in the letter to the board of directors.
"Your behavior in this matter must, and will, be taken into account as my office considers the Cambia/Regence's request for a merger," the letter concluded.
This is a developing story. Check back later for more updates.
Staff writer Zachery Eanes contributed to this story.
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