South Carolina Insurance Director Resigns With No Official Explanation

Published May 31, 2016

David Black has resigned as director of the South Carolina Department of Insurance, the department announced in a media advisory.

No reason was given for Black’s departure, which comes just 11 months after he was named to the post by Gov. Nikki Haley (R). Black, a former president of Greenville, S.C.-based Liberty Life Insurance Co., succeeded Scott Richardson, who served four years as South Carolina insurance director under former Gov. Mark Sanford (R). Richardson since has become a Heartland Institute policy advisor.

Haley has named Gwen Fuller-McGriff acting director of the department. Fuller-McGriff currently serves as the department’s director of legal, legislative and external affairs.

No ‘Fall Guy’

In a Dec. 30 column, Renee Dudley of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier cited Democrats and others who have worked with Black as speculating that he wanted to avoid being made a “fall guy” for federal inquiries into how the department spent a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create a health insurance exchange, as called for under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has urged an inquiry into whether Haley’s administration misused the funds, following allegations the state accepted the grant with no intention of creating a state-based exchange.

Incriminating Emails

In December The Post and Courier published a March 2011 email directive allegedly written by Haley regarding the Health Planning Committee, which used a portion of the grant funds to study whether to go with a state or federal exchange. In the email thread, Haley apparently directs her advisers and some members of the committee that “the whole point of this commission should be to figure out how to opt out and how to avoid a federal takeover, NOT create a state exchange.”

Dudley’s column quotes state Rep. Harold Mitchell (D-Spartanburg) as saying that Black “doesn’t want to be the one to go down” over the federal inquiry. Mitchell has requested Black brief him on how the health planning committee used the federal grant.

Under the health care reform law, HHS will build and administer exchanges in states that do not set them up independently. Starting in 2014, the exchanges will enforce minimum coverage requirements and manage federal premium subsidies for health insurance purchased in the individual and small group markets.