Soapbox

Another View: California’s insurance market in good shape

A recent op-ed argued that California regulates insurers too much (“Politics, regulations are ruining state insurance market,” Viewpoints, Jan. 14).

Really? Let’s look at the facts.

California has the sixth-largest insurance market in the world. Insurers collect $123 billion a year in premiums from Californians.

The California Department of Insurance has issued licenses to new or expanding companies. The department has led the nation in bringing to market insurance products that protect users of new services and technologies, including Uber and Lyft.

Insurance sales continue to expand in California. Insurance is available to meet consumer and business needs.

Just turn on your TV, radio, computer or smartphone. You see and hear ads at all hours of the day from all sorts of insurance companies. The one with the good hands, the one with the college professor, the one with the lizard, the one with the lady dressed all in white – the list of insurers competing for our business in California goes on and on.

As for the regulations the insurer-led R Street Institute complains about, they protect consumers and businesses – such as Proposition 103, which was enacted by the voters in 1988 to stop excessive auto and homeowner rates.

The Consumer Federation of America concluded that Proposition 103 has saved Californians more than $100 billion.

Other states allow the use of credit scores and other unfairly discriminatory factors in establishing insurance rates for personal auto and homeowners insurance, but California prohibits the use of credit scores.

To make sure the insurance regulator is accountable to the people – not the insurance industry or special interests – California’s insurance commissioner is elected. The commissioner’s authority is established and governed by law to prevent the politicization of the office. The Department of Insurance is staffed by professional nonpartisan public servants.

The insurer-led group’s report card guaranteed a low score for California by mischaracterizing an independent, elected commissioner as a negative and by assigning low scores for the very initiative process that voters used to enact Proposition 103. California scored very well on important measures such as keeping insurance companies solvent, fighting fraud and fiscal efficiency.

When this organization attacks California’s effective regulation of the insurance industry, what it really means is insurance companies could make even higher profits at our expense if California had weaker regulations. Let’s not let them steer California off course.

Dave Jones is California’s elected insurance commissioner.

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