Senate Bill 477, Senate Bill 490 and House Bill 834 – they sound innocuous enough. Most citizens never bother to check what rhetoric and sweeping changes ride in on those numbers, unless sleep aid is needed. But these three bills, making their way through the North Carolina General Assembly, would likely force drivers to pay higher auto insurance premiums should they pass into law.
According to the commissioner of North Carolina’s Department of Insurance, the new proposed laws would tie the commissioner’s hands, limiting his or her power to set caps (limits) on insurance rates and would even restrict power to issue refunds for excessive rates.
Assured Insurance Rate Spike
In a press conference with local media, Commissioner Wayne Goodwin stated that, “Insurance companies would be allowed to charge you whatever they want on a product you have no choice but to buy.” As one can imagine, without powers to regulate auto insurers, rates would likely spike tremendously.
The current system in North Carolina was constructed to provide fairness to the consumer. Insurance companies, acting with the North Carolina Rate Bureau, can petition the Department of Insurance if they wish to up their rates. The commissioner then has the ultimate say, choosing to grant the request, deny it, or even override the current rates and lower them.
No More Refunds?
Wayne Goodwin has been what he describes as fair to the insurance companies, granting small increases. Of course, the insurers always petition to drive rates up even higher, but as acting commissioner, SC citizens received around $50 million in refunds last year alone thanks to Goodwin.
The GOP believes Goodwin has too much power over private industry, able to set rates. However, South Carolina’s auto insurance industry is thriving in comparison to other states with fewer regulations, and its citizens are better insured on average for less money.
South Carolina boasts the lowest insurance rates in the south and the eighth-lowest in the nation. Said Goodwin, “We need to keep our current system in place…these bills are about corporate greed.”