Insurers Top Donor to Committee Chair Kanjorski
Santa Monica, CA — A Congressional hearing on insurance industry oversight ignored consumer interests with testimony from five members of the industry and a regulator, but no consumer advocates, said the nonprofit, nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) today. The insurance industry is the top contributor to Representative Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa), chair of the House subcommittee that held yesterday’s hearing.
“Representative Kanjorksi invited five members of the insurance industry to testify about a plan to weaken insurance regulation and the only other presenter was an appointed insurance commissioner who had previously worked in the insurance industry for decades. Consumers weren’t even in the room,” said Carmen Balber, consumer advocate with FTCR. “Congressional hearings are not supposed to be a soapbox for the insurance industry.”
Insurance companies gave Rep. Kanjorski $151,274 in the last election cycle according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Three insurance companies, two representatives of insurance brokers and agents, and a regulator who spent decades in the industry before his appointment as Alabama’s insurance commissioner and chair of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners testified to a subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee.
The hearing was scheduled as a discussion of proposals to change how the insurance industry is regulated, including a controversial proposal to remove regulation of the industry from the states to a federal agency.
“Rep. Kanjorski’s big insurance donors want Congress to override state consumer protection laws so companies can raise rates at will and are not subject to more rigorous oversight of their business practices,” said Balber. “But, Congress cannot have an honest debate about insurance regulation without consulting anyone who speaks for the people who have to buy insurance.”
California has the strongest state insurance regulation that has reined in insurer costs and lowered rates for consumers at the same time the insurance industry enjoyed steady profits, said FTCR. California voters passed Proposition 103 at the ballot in 1988 and required insurance companies to open their books and justify rates before premiums are approved. The law, which regulates auto, homeowners and other business and property insurance, has saved California drivers more than $23 billion.
During the past four years, FTCR has used Prop 103‘s consumer intervention power to block unnecessary and unwarranted rate hikes, saving drivers, homeowners and doctors more than $800 million in excessive rates.
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is the state’s leading consumer watchdog group. For more information, visit us on the web at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org.