Two pieces of news provide a flicker of hope amid the doom and gloom.
CHICAGO, Jan. 17 -- The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America issued the following news release:
As state legislatures across the country begin their sessions, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America's (PCI) state advocacy priorities include protecting and promoting the viability of a competitive private insurance market as well as curbing fraud and abuse in several no-fault auto insurance systems, addressing auto body repair and coastal property insurance issues as well as advancing cost containment measures in state workers compensation systems. In addition, PCI anticipates credit-based insurance scoring and tort reform to once again be legislative issues during 2012.
PCI made significant progress at the state, federal, and international levels last year on a myriad of issues, despite facing an anemic economy, increasing political and regulatory pressures, and historic natural disasters. Looking forward to 2012, PCI anticipates facing many of these issues again, with the additional challenge of advancing our advocacy agenda during a watershed presidential election year.
"PCI is committed to advancing a pro-consumer agenda that supports healthy, competitive insurance markets across the nation," said Paul Blume, senior vice president of state government relations for PCI. "In these tough economic times consumers are best served by measures that address the cost drivers of insurance and provide individuals with choices. Our agenda will also help modernize state regulatory environments and improve insurance marketplaces."
No-fault auto insurance is a major priority for PCI due to growing crises in several of the nation's largest states such as Florida, Michigan, New Jersey and New York. "Soaring medical bills, high attorney fees and rampant fraud and abuse are forcing drivers in these states to pay significantly more for auto insurance than they should," said Blume. "Over the last several years fraud rings and abuses of the system have cost consumers over $1.6 billion in New York and Florida alone. This amounts to a "fraud tax" on hardworking citizens and the cost trends in these states are unsustainable."
Currently there are major legislative and regulatory efforts to reform and transform these systems. A Florida coalition of citizens, business associations, and law enforcement agencies are leading the charge to transform no-fault in this state. A long list of New York City district attorneys, politicians and civic leaders are pushing for comprehensive reform in New York. The New Jersey Insurance Department has proposed new regulations in the Garden State and the Michigan Insurance Commissioner is backing a plan to control costs by reforming its no-fault system which provides unlimited medical coverage.
PCI anticipates the major auto body repair and glass issues for 2012 will involve aftermarket parts, labor rates, steering and estimating systems. 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.
The 2011 hurricane season was another very active year for tropical storms. This was the 12th above normal year since 1995. Hurricane Irene, which first made landfall in North Carolina, affected much of the Eastern Seaboard causing more than $4 billion in insured losses. In 2012, PCI is prepared to address coastal property insurance issues across the country and particularly in northeastern states where tropical storms have been rare.
"PCI calls on elected officials in coastal regions to examine weaknesses in their building codes and where necessary address shortcomings in residual markets with well-reasoned, market-oriented approaches that embrace risk-based pricing and healthy competition," said Blume. "We will also support legislative efforts in targeted states to combat construction and roofing contractor fraud and abuse that can run rampant in the aftermath of a major weather event as well as advance building code and loss mitigation reforms."
Another major priority for PCI involves addressing rising medical costs which continue to plague workers compensation systems. The repackaging of drugs by physicians and over-prescribing of narcotics are significant contributors to rising pharmaceutical costs in the system. "PCI will continue to work with coalitions to address increasing workers compensation pharmacy costs while ensuring that injured workers receive appropriate and effective treatments," said Blume. "Our California affiliate, the Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC), will be active defending the California reforms made several years ago and advancing positive legislation on medical lien reform."
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