(*Chip Merlin’s Note: This guest blog is by Frank Artiles, candidate for the Florida State House of Representatives)

“Determine never to be idle…It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.”
      -Thomas Jefferson  

Thank you for hosting a Forum that informs and educates so many regarding insurance industry trends and concerns. I feel privileged to work in a part of the insurance industry dedicated to helping people. I am humbled that you have asked me to write about a topic that is so important and that I feel strongly about.

The Bill introduced by State Representative Janet Long has raised many critical concerns among those aligned with the interests of insurance consumers. Given the significant campaign contributions to Representative Long by insurance lawyer lobbyists, insurance companies such as Allstate, Tower Hill, Travelers and many insurance agents, is there any doubt as to the interests she was protecting when introducing this legislation?

This is probably the first of many anti-policyholder laws that will be proposed. And, many of the most devastating laws will first be proposed as amendments in the final hours on the last days of legislative session. For consumers and hard working policyholders who are not funding an army of professional lawyer lobbyists and public relations firms like the insurance industry, such last minute changes to proposed insurance laws do not provide enough time. The average Floridian cannot counter the onslaught of insurance industry legislative deals worked out months before in private meetings with legislators, such as Representative Janet Long. I truly believe that insurance company interests will be prominent in the 2010 Florida legislative session. The title to this post is for everyone, including those who are not in the insurance industry. Insurance is an important product, and it impacts everyone. Over the last few years, many voters have not been provided the truth regarding the insurance industry agenda of higher insurance rates and less regulation. This agenda fosters the biggest problem with insurance– insurance companies that are denying, delaying and not paying claims. Suddenly, Public Adjusters and greedy policyholders are being singled out as the cause of problems in insurance. This is not by accident and has been orchestrated by very effective public relations techniques and constant lobbying of Florida leaders by the insurance industry.

We need to get involved in our political process. We need to recognize who our elected officials are. We have civic obligations to inform them about the issues of which we have specialized knowledge and training. Public adjusters need to explain what we do for our clients, and take our clients to our legislators and to Tallahassee so that the insurance company lawyers and lobbyists will be called out for the lies and deception they are attempting. Letters, videos and face to face accounts by policyholders of what really goes on during the claims process is the best evidence of the need for insurance company claim reform. This will also demonstrate why Floridians need professional and trained claims experts on their side immediately after a loss.

I strongly recommend that any Public Adjuster that lives in Representative Janet Long’s District 51 call and make an appointment with her. Those with policyholder clients should be taken to her local office and in Tallahassee. Policyholder clients in her district should be contacted by phone, email, and letters advising them to petition Representative Long to withdraw her anti-policyholder legislation and explaining how their public adjuster helped obtain a fair settlement from the insurance company. These letters, calls and visits from her constituents will draw attention to the overbroad claims of fraud and inflated claims the insurance industry has made. These will further draw attention that the real need is for laws that prevent insurers from abusing homeowners and business owners at claim time.

Next, the same effort that is made for Representative Long should be made with every legislator in Florida. Policyholder clients must tell their story to their elected representative and Senator and they should explain the services we provide.

Finally, those previously not joining the legislative effort must stop sitting on the sideline and letting everyone else work and pay the costs of these efforts. Plenty complain and criticize without joining the effort. Policyholders and public adjusters can join organizations that support consumer interests and flush out the insurance industry’s deception. Public adjusters should join FAPIA or other organizations that will lobby against the formidable insurance industry.

Everyone must join together to do the right thing for Floridians. Protecting policyholder homeowners and business owners is my pledge and honor. I am proud to be a public adjuster, working with my colleagues to make our profession better, and actively “doing” in the political process as Thomas Jefferson suggested is the duty of all long ago.

Below, I have attached the membership list for the Insurance, Business and Financial Affairs Policy Committee

Patterson, Pat (R) — Chair
Grady, Tom (R) — Vice Chair
Rader, Kevin J. G. (D) — Democratic Ranking Member
Domino, Carl J. (R)
Eisnaugle, Eric (R)
Flores, Anitere (R)
Hays, D. Alan (R)
Jenne, Evan (D)
Long, Janet C. (D)
Nehr, Peter (R)
Nelson, Bryan (R)
Taylor, Dwayne L. (D)
Wood, John (R)
Workman, Ritch (R)