I grew up in Chula Vista and have been around military families all my life. Two years ago I got married and became part of a military family myself. I’m proud of my husband’s service. But I’m shocked at the cynical use of military families in the advertising campaign for Proposition 33, which is 99 percent bankrolled by one billionaire insurance company executive.
Prop. 33 increases auto insurance prices on good drivers who don’t drive for good reasons but then need insurance to get behind the wheel again. The insurance backers of Prop. 33 are running radio ads that claim it will protect military families. In fact, it threatens spouses of Air Force pilots like me.
If my husband drops auto insurance coverage due to his military service, he may not be surcharged under a special political exemption from Prop. 33’s rate increases, but a military spouse like me can be charged 40 percent more for auto insurance if we choose not to drive, then re-enter the insurance market.
Foreign service workers under threat in embassies across the world would also be surcharged under Prop. 33 if they stopped driving abroad, then returned to California and bought insurance. That’s hardly “supporting our heroes,” as the deceptive Prop. 33 radio advertising campaign says.
No one should be punished just because they couldn’t afford a car or chose not to drive.
Prop. 33 punishes all kinds of people who have a break in their insurance coverage for good reasons, like living in a city and using public transit, being a student or because of a long-term illness. If my husband, heaven forbid, was injured while serving his country, and canceled his car insurance while recovering but not on “active duty,” he would be charged more for insurance when he was well enough to get back on the road. Same thing for other veterans, who often need to take a break from driving to make ends meet.
The backers of Prop 33 want you to believe that they put an initiative on the ballot to give you a discount for buying insurance. Don’t buy it.
Ninety-nine percent of the $8.3 million raised for Prop. 33 came from one insurance industry executive, George Joseph, executive chairman of Mercury Insurance. He’s even giving money to other organizations to speak out about Prop. 33 so it looks like someone other than his insurance company is behind it.
But when has an insurance industry billionaire spent $8 million on a ballot initiative to save me money? Never.
Here’s what’s really going on. Car insurance companies used to charge more, or refuse to sell insurance, to drivers who didn’t already have insurance. Twenty-four years ago voters passed a law to outlaw that kind of unfair pricing.
Prop. 33 would turn back the clock on those consumer protections. It would let insurers surcharge Californians if they didn’t buy car insurance for more than 90 days at any time in the last five years. Even a perfect driving record won’t protect you.
This initiative will mean higher auto insurance rates.
In states where this kind of unfair pricing is already legal, Mercury charges over 50 percent more for auto insurance to people who did not have prior insurance, even if the reason was because they didn’t drive or have a car. For example, online Mercury quotes for drivers without prior insurance are 103 percent higher in Florida, and 61 percent higher in Texas.
All drivers will be hurt because charging higher prices to people who don’t already have insurance means more drivers will go uninsured because they can’t afford coverage. That increases uninsured motorist premiums for everyone.
If you’re feeling some déjà vu, it’s because this has been tried before.
Two years ago, George Joseph’s Mercury Insurance company spent $16 million on an almost identical ballot initiative that was called Prop. 17. Voters rejected that measure, so Mercury added a deceptive exemption for the most sympathetic victims of the proposal, active duty military service members. And Joseph is funding Prop. 33 personally so voters don’t hear in advertising disclosures that an insurance company is behind the proposition.
Voters should ask not only why an insurance company executive wants this proposal so badly, but what does Prop. 33 do to foreign service workers, veterans and military wives like me who have good reason to stop driving. Prop. 33 is the same deceptive and dangerous proposal as Prop. 17. Voters need to tell this insurance billionaire that no means no.
Curtis is married to an Air Force pilot and is a volunteer for the StopProp33.org