Imagine if the only way politicians could raise campaign money was from the people who could vote for them. Until that happens, the insurance industry, which is among the strongest lobbying powers, will continue to influence otherwise well meaning public servants into making laws serving only insurers. Thank goodness there are a few independent consumer-centered public service groups with expertise to take on the sophisticated and well funded insurance lobbyists and their lawyers.
Bob Hunter, Amy Bach, Birny Birnbaum, and Douglas Heller are leaders from four different consumer groups dedicated to protecting your rights as insurance consumers. Yesterday, they called on Governor Crist to remain steadfast in "protecting the people from abusive treatment at the hands of the insurance companies."
They noted that Florida’s legislation is flawed, will lead to higher rates, and has been disastrous when tried before:
"…this bill is an invitation for insurers to game the Florida regulatory system and abuse consumers. No price can be too high, no discrimination can be found unfair if a policy is issued under these terms. The regulator can only come in and raise prices if an insurer goes too low, which is extremely unlikely.
It seems that the Florida Legislature is willing to bet that deregulation will somehow fix a non-competitive market. We have seen this approach fail — in Texas where Mr. Hunter of Consumer Federation of America was commissioner the homeowners market was unregulated as to rates and still insurers would not write or write only at very excessive rates."
Last year, I was present in Tallahassee when Florida Senators lauded Bob Hunter for his expertise and understanding of the insurance markets and industry. He provides some straight talk on what he thinks about the proposed law:
"We must ask just what is the logic behind this bill — that an insurer who has to justify a rate to a regulator won’t write in the market? Why shouldn’t an insurer have to justify a rate in a market where competitive forces clearly do not protect the consumer? In virtually every state, regulators have the authority to require a justification of rates from insurers and those markets operate successfully. Simply stated, there is no evidence or logic that this deregulation will improve the market or the options for Florida consumers, indeed we have seen that such measures simply make things worse.
You, sir, know that insurers will abuse a freedom like this. You have seen the way they dumped your citizens after aggressively writing insurance for them for many years before abandoning them. For treating Floridians so outrageously, the insurers get a gift like this bill?"
The Devil needs no advocates. But, whoever did the dirty work for the insurance companies in getting Florida legislators to pass this bill must surely have made some sensational closed door deals and explanations. Maybe the insurance controlled politicians, who call this bill "consumer choice" think their constituents are stupid. Maybe those insurance controlled politicians think voters cannot remember for more than one year. I believe people want straight talk. They can remember and do not take kindly to politicians claiming to to have their best interests at heart and then acting to violate those interests. Angered insurance consumers become adamant voters next year.
Governor Crist is again called to stand up to insurance companies. Most of us share an American dream of owning a home. It would be a shame to let an unnecessary increase in insurance rates destroy that dream for many–merely because the insurance companies have mastered the art of politics in Florida. Governor Crist needs to veto this proposed law.