News Herald (Port Clinton, OH)
COLUMBUS – House Democratic Leader Chris Redfern introduced legislation Monday that would empower Ohio voters to elect an insurance commissioner to oversee the Ohio department of Insurance.
Rep. Redfern, D-Catawba Island, said he hoped his proposal would bring oversight of Ohio’s insurance industry closer to citizens and eventually pay off in the form of lower insurance rates.
“This is an opportunity for the people of Ohio to have direct access to an insurance advocate working on their behalf,” Redfern said Monday.
The Ohio State Department of Insurance is now overseen by an appointee of the governor’s office. But 12 states have elected insurance commissioners, including California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Washington.
Last month, Democrats in the Colorado state legislature proposed creating an elected insurance commissioner there.
Advocates of elected insurance commissioners say they tend to respond more quickly to consumers’ needs because they must face voters. They also argue that placing an elected official in charge of insurance oversight places more public attention on the important consumer issues at stake within the industry.
California residents voted in 1988 to begin electing an insurance commissioner. Since then, according to the California-based Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights, automobile liability premiums declined by more than 22 percent. During the same period, motorists’ premiums for basic coverage increased 30 percent across the United States.
If Redfern’s proposal is enacted, Ohio voters would first choose an insurance commissioner in 2006. Commissioners would serve four-year terms.