I am an advocate for insurance policyholders. I am accountable to them. Our firm accomplishes the results they expect through a "can do" outlook, innovation and the timeless All-American mother of most success– hard work.
I was imagining what it would be like to make a living as an insurance industry lobbyist. Lobbyists are usually lawyers or staffers that go by a title such as a "governmental affairs assistant." Some are the directors of various insurance trade organizations. Insurance companies measure their lobbyists’ accountability in a different way.
Would the insurance companies and their lobbyists ever be honest and completely transparent regarding their legislative agendas, motives, and goals? Could you imagine if our elected representatives demanded honesty as a prerequisite to legislation? Given that some are mutual insurance companies and owned by the policyholders (like State Farm), you would think they would never have a legislative agenda that would harm consumers by raising rates or avoiding consumer protection statutes.
So, why not require insurance companies to show their internal records regarding their motives in influencing legislation? After all, insurance is a business involving the "public trust."
After some reflection on these matters, I owe an apology and correction to some in my prior Blogs. My typical experience with most elected officials on a personal basis is that they want to help the people they represent.
I probably slammed many well meaning public servants too harshly. That deserves correction.
Insurance seems simple, but is very complex. I can appreciate some legislators simply not understanding the full impact of proposed bills and voting for laws they think are good but in reality, harm their constituents.
For obvious reasons, the insurance industry does not fully explain the impact of their proposed laws. Sometimes, I can tell in discussions that insurance lobbyists do not understand the full implications of what they do and say. They are just trying to make a living selling the company line.
It is hard for a person like me to keep up with legislation as it is being made. I have a full time job helping customers of insurance companies get paid what they deserve. I help run a very busy law practice. My expertise and understanding of these issues goes far beyond most legislators because I am involved with insurance consumers and these issues on a daily basis. It is my life’s work.
I feel for those trying to be a good representative and making decisions without fully appreciating the legal subtleties before them. I should cut them some leeway.
Insurance is one of the most important social products mankind has developed. There are thousands of knowledgeable agents peddling these valuable products which provide us with financial security and the peace of mind that if something catastrophic happens, a financial safety blanket is there. Businesses and people want to or are obligated to purchase insurance. While I know that many joke about avoiding their insurance agents, their services and products are significant investments all of us should make.
This Florida legislative session still leaves me troubled. I have difficulty understanding what so many of these hardworking, well-meaning representatives were thinking when voting for unregulated rates. Unregulated rates will result in rates higher than what the regulators would permit-even though the regulated rates give insurers a fair profit on their investment.
It sounds so stupid. Can you imagine this scenario:
Edna, I am really excited about this new law. The old fair rate approved by the Office of Insurance Regulation has been wiped off the books by our genius Florida legislators. Next year, we will get the same insurance, and it will cost as much as our carrier wants to charge us. This is because our insurance carrier no longer has to worry about applying for a fair rate.
The Palm Beach Post hit the nail on the head with Monday’s editorial calling on Governor Crist to veto this awful legislation.
Additionally, I am going to represent a number of very disgruntled surplus lines policyholders. Many of them are business owners, and I will point to the political guys that damned them this session. I predict the new surplus lines law is so poorly conceived that even the surplus lines carriers and admitted carriers will be joining policyholders asking for it to be modified.
It is not fair that surplus lines carriers are free from all Chapter 627 consumer protections while admitted carriers have to comply. This law gives the surplus lines carriers a market advantage over the admitted carriers in Florida. Agents are going to find ways to get clients looking for "cheap" insurance into the surplus lines market. Less coverage will be offered, but at less price. Why the admitted carriers with approved forms and rates allowed that to happen is beyond me.
So, with the prospect of more legislative bargaining next year, maybe these insurance lobbyists were just creating job security. But, at what cost to the public?