Monday, 12 January 2009 11:50

Insurers Announce Legislative Priorities for 2009

Auto Repair, Credit, Catastrophic Risk Issues Top PCIs State Advocacy Agenda in 2009

Auto repair issues, credit-based insurance scoring, catastrophic risk issues, and a continued push for a more effective and efficient regulatory environment top the list of 2009 state advocacy objectives for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

“This year PCI anticipates that state legislatures will once again grapple with a wide range of auto repair issues,” said John Lobert, senior vice president, state government affairs for PCI.  “Over the past several years insurers and the collision repair industry have clashed over issues such as anti-steering, labor rates, estimating systems, aftermarket parts and patent infringement  These are important issues for insurers and consumers because physical damage repairs are a major cost driver for auto insurance. To help control costs and promote customer service, PCI will oppose legislative efforts that would restrict insurers’ ability to make recommendations or suggestions to consumers on individual repair facilities or that would impede insurers’ ability to manage the claim repair process and control costs on behalf of consumers.”

With the downturn in the economy, PCI is also prepared for another round of legislative battles over insurers’ use of credit information in underwriting and rating and other threats to risk-based pricing.  “The issue that is likely to surface in the largest number of states this year will be credit-based insurance scoring,” said Lobert.  “However, the National Conference of Insurance Legislators’ (NCOIL) insurance scoring model act addresses most concerns and state legislators and insurance regulators across the country have used it as a way to implement reasonable regulation of insurance scores. The success of this model makes it unnecessary for lawmakers to enact new legislation.”

PCI will be encouraging lawmakers to enact legislation that will enable coastal states such as North Carolina and Texas to become better prepared for the financial impact of a major hurricane or tropical storm. “PCI has a five-point policy proposal for delivering a stronger, more stable property insurance market for North Carolina residents,” said Lobert. “This proposal is meant to serve as a roadmap for lawmakers, consumers, and insurers during the 2009 legislative session when addressing the issue of coastal insurance reform.  In Texas we are looking for both short term and long term strategies addressing the funding crisis facing the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.  If these coastal issues are not addressed soon, all taxpayers and private insurance companies will foot the bill.”

The November elections brought sweeping change to the political landscape and may have emboldened the trial bar to advance a wide range of issues that would result in insurers paying extra contractual damages.  “Based on our analysis of the political climate, we expect the trial bar to aggressively push legislation in statehouses across the country that will create more opportunities to file lawsuits and inflate damage awards, said Lobert. “We are prepared to fight these proposals which ultimately hurt consumers and are committed to making legal reform a priority issue during the 2009 legislative sessions.”

Finally, Lobert indicated that PCI remains dedicated to regulatory modernization in the statehouses and before NAIC.  “Regulatory frameworks that support free and fair competition help to promote a healthy and stable market, increase consumer choice, and spur innovation, said Lobert.  “That’s a message we deliver to public policymakers at every opportunity and will continue to drive home in 2009.”