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The San Francisco Chronicle
Apr 07, 2004
Save Prop. 103California's congressional delegation needs to work hard -- and fast -- to stop federal legislation that could undermine this state's voter-approved controls on auto insurance rates.
The intent to significantly weaken regulation of the insurance industry was sketched out by Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, in a March 14 speech to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Oxley, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, suggested the "travesty of price controls" is reducing competition and choice for consumers.
Oxley proposed the creation of a national insurance coordinator, along with a federal-state advisory council, to oversee the lifting of most pricing controls as well as measures to "promote uniformity" in rules imposed by the 50 states. He cited Illinois as an example of a free-market "success story."
In a letter to Oxley, California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi vigorously defended Proposition 103, the 1988 measure that requires insurers to justify proposed auto insurance rate increases to the commissioner, who has the authority to approve or reject them.
"Not only has California seen the most substantial consumer benefits since regulation was installed by the voters, it has been above average in profitability for insurers as well," Garamendi said in his letter to Oxley. "In fact, over the past decade, California has been more profitable than Illinois in every major line of insurance with the exception of workers' compensation, which was deregulated in California in 1993."
In his speech, Oxley characterized his sweeping plan as a conceptual "road map" that would endure much input and review before it became public. An aide to the House Financial Services Committee said Tuesday that the drafting of the legislation has just begun.
Californians who care about their auto-insurance premiums need to send a strong message to Washington: Don't tinker with Proposition 103..
You can send an e-mail to Oxley through a form on his Web site at www.oxley.house.gov/contact.asp. You can find the name and contact information for your representative in Congress at www.house.gov/writerep.
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