When Wayne Goodwin warns that legislators and some in the insurance industry may be up to something, its fairly safe to assume that...they may be up to something.
So lets hope all these pro-business Republicans in the General Assembly understand that if they should act in a way that has North Carolina consumers paying more for auto insurance, and facing more rate increases in a revised system with few checks and balances, the voters may decide to be not so pro-Republican in the next election.
Once again, Republicans are raising suggestions for changes in auto insurance regulation that would take authority away from Goodwin in the name of simplifying regulation. In this case, it appears simplification could come at quite a price.
North Carolina has a good system of rate regulation, wherein companies submit their rate requests to the N.C. Rate Bureau, which oversees rate-making on other insurance-related topics, and then requests are reviewed by the commissioner.
But Republicans seem inclined to reduce the commissioners authority. Goodwin says he sees in the bill a chance for companies to push through substantial rate increases without facing his authority.
Heres an example of what appears to be a little rhetorical trickery. Bill advocates say the commissioner would have final authority over rates, and could reject proposed increases he believed to be wrong. Goodwin, however, says the wording of the bill indicates companies could push rate increases of up to 12 percent automatically. And, Goodwin says, the bill said rates of less than an aggregated 12 percent shall be presumed not to be excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory.
In other words, it seems, if any increase is less than 12 percent its considered perfectly acceptable, commissioner or no commissioner.
This seems to be another case of consumers needing to beware reform that is suspiciously one-sided in favor of an industry or more important, unnecessary.
One of the arguments made for the bill, for example, is that with a simpler regulatory system (look out, consumers), North Carolinians would benefit from more competition for their business.
Well, Goodwin responds by noting that some 160 auto insurers compete now for business in North Carolina. So it appears that part of regulation isnt broken. Goodwin also notes the states rates are low, regionally and nationally. Hmmmm...something else that indicates oversight as it stands now isnt broken.
So this measure falls apart not just on suspicion, but on merit, or the lack thereof.
Why change it, then? When something like this is on the horizon, its always likely that politics or special interests influence, or both, are part of the inspiration. One wonders if this just might be an effort to punish an insurance commissioner elected statewide by the people because he happens to be a Democrat.
Goodwin has learned to watch his back on matters such as this. In this case, hes watching the backs of all North Carolina consumers.