Friday, May 18, 2007

Senate Committee Slated to Strip Insurance Commissioner of Rate-Setting Authority on May 22

Below is a post of mine on that I thought the 8th District would want to read about as well.

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You may recall a previous entry of mine here on BlueNC regarding SB 901 filed earlier this legislative session. Well, immediate action is needed because the Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to take up the bill this coming Tuesday, May 22nd at 11 a.m. in Raleigh. With the "crossover" deadline looming only 2 days later, any thing could happen ... and that is very, very dangerous for consumers and payers of insurance premiums here in North Carolina.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Long has asked me to challenge EVERY BlueNC reader and believer to do 2 things: (1) read the following summary of what the bill does; and (2) email, fax, and/or call every member of the Senate Commerce Committee before 9 a.m. on Tues., May 22nd.

First, here is the summary:

If SB 901 passes, then insurance companies will be able to file and use higher insurance rates automatically. If SB 901 had been in place in 2006, then insurance companies would have been able to charge homeowners in eastern and coastal NC up to a 125% increase in homeowners insurance premiums.

If SB 901 passes, then the "burden of proof" - a powerful legal concept - will be moved from the insurance companies seeking rate increases to the Insurance Commissioner instead. What that means is that the Insurance Commissioner will have to prove that insurance rate hikes are unreasonable and excessive, etc., instead of insurance companies having the burden to prove why they should charge higher rates.

If SB 901 passes, then it will remove the limitations for automobile and workers' comp rate filings: Those insurance companies will be able to make multiple rate filings and rate hikes in one calendar year.

If SB 901 passes, then the filed rates will go into effect immediately and would remain effective unless the Commissioner disputes the filing and a special Superior Court judge agrees with the Commissioner.

If SB 901 passes, then the rate-setting authority will be shifted to a Special Superior Court Judge in Wake County and away from an Insurance Commissioner elected Statewide.

If SB 901 passes, then a judge unfamiliar with the technical, complexities of insurance rate-setting - and without sufficient staff - will hear insurance rate-setting cases instead of the Commissioner of Insurance and his bevy of independent specialists working in the NC Department of Insurance.

If SB 901 passes, then you are guaranteed that your automobile insurance rates will go up. Why? NC already enjoys being the 5th lowest in auto insurance premiums in the country. With SB 901 there is no where to go but higher premiums.

If SB 901 passes, then insurance companies will even benefit from a new enormous windfall in the millions of dollars: Instead of having to refund excessive premiums to North Carolinians from the date the rates were raised by the companies, the insurance companies will only have to refund the amount of monies paid in unfairly since the decision by the Court. That is a huge change that will cost citizens and small businesses millions and millions of dollars.

If SB 901 passes, the Department of Insurance anticipates that workers' compensation premiums for NC small businesses will rise just as quickly as auto insurance.

If SB 901 passes, then it will allow insurance companies to charge rates that are higher than the maximum approved rates.

If SB 901 passes, then we know for certain that homeowners insurance premiums will rise up to 125% because of what insurance companies sought on the coast and in eastern NC in 2006, and based upon the activities of many of those companies in neighboring southern States.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Long believes that our current system works well for consumers and insurance companies. SB 901 benefits ONLY insurance companies.

He asks that you contact members of the Senate Commerce Committee BEFORE 9 a.m. on Tues., May 22nd.

Those Senators are: Soles, chairman; Rand, vice chairman; Hoyle, vice chairman; Apodaca, Doug Berger, Phil Berger, Boseman, Dalton, Dorsett, Foriest, Forrester, Garrou, Goodall, Goss, Graham, Hagan, Hunt, Jacumin, Kerr, Malone, McKissick, Nesbitt, Pittenger, Purcell, Shaw, Stevens.

Tell them you STRONGLY OPPOSE SB 901 and tell them why.

Democrats control the State Senate and the State House and there is no reason for Democrats to be voting in favor of this anti-consumer bill on Tuesday morning, May 22. If they do, and it passes out of committee and out of the Senate, then it will be the proverbial "camel's nose under the tent" ... virtually guaranteeing its passage in some form and prompting similar anti-consumer legislation down the road.

Do consumers and small businesses want or need to change the current system? No, of course not!

Please keep us posted on what you hear in response from legislators. My work email address is and my personal email address is

Thanks, again, to BlueNC for all it (and its many members and fans) do!

Wayne Goodwin
Assistant Commissioner of Insurance
NC Dept of Insurance
State of North Carolina