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Our View: It's the wrong time for car-insurance reform talk

The complete article can be found here: The Fayetteville Observer

Hang onto your wallets. Here comes another attempt to "fix" North Carolina's car-insurance system.

Like previous efforts, its most likely result is a bigger insurance bill for many of us. Legislative short sessions are meant for adjusting the budget, addressing urgent needs and passing local bills. But tradition notwithstanding, a coalition of some insurance companies and trade groups is pushing once again for reform of the state's car-insurance regulations.

Proponents say their aim is to reduce premiums and offer more good-driver discounts here. Apparently the more than 2,000 discounts already approved by the state insurance commissioner aren't enough. They say they also want to increase competitiveness in the marketplace, although there are already more than 150 companies providing car insurance here. And our average insurance rates are the sixth-lowest in the country.

What they really want to do is this: Create a path around having their rates set by the insurance commissioner. Their legislation would allow insurance companies to file individual rate requests with the commissioner, bypassing the N.C. Rate Bureau. It would only allow the commissioner to accept or reject proposed rate changes - not set them, as he does presently - and there would never be a decrease in rates unless a company asked for it (let's not hold our collective breath).

By allowing companies to opt out of the Rate Bureau system, the reform bill would dismantle the state's car-insurance regulatory system. It would take away North Carolina drivers' foremost consumer advocate and put insurance companies behind the wheel.

If the companies could make a case that they're being treated unfairly, that the rates don't allow them to make a profit, we'd listen. But none of them are pulling out because they're losing money here.

If the insurers really wanted to offer more and better discounts, they'd support a bill the Senate passed unanimously last year...

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