Local News

Some Question Timing Of Insurance Refund Checks With Commissioner's Name

Posted November 23, 2004

— Jim Long is going into his sixth term as North Carolina's Insurance Commissioner.

After 20 years, he has a strong grip on the office, but some in the industry question his methods, pointing to refund checks delivered to voters just before this year's election.

Long's name was printed at least three times on the refund notices.

Long, a Democrat beat Republican Robert Brawley for a sixth term as North Carolina's Insurance Commissioner.

Just before the election, insurance companies started sending refund checks with Long's name on them to 6 million policy holders in the state.

"Oh, it's great timing, but you take it when you get it," Long said. "Sometimes the timing is bad, sometimes it's good. The important thing is we got the money back to policy holders as quickly as we could get companies to do it."

Insurance companies will refund up to $700 million to North Carolina policy holders in a rate settlement negotiated by the commissioner and upheld by the state supreme court.

This latest settlement ordered insurance companies to pay up just in time for the election --- just like the last settlement four years ago --also an election year.

Ray Evans works for the NC Rate Bureau, which represents insurance companies. He says the timing is more than just good luck, but he won't say the commissioner did anything wrong.

"The rules are the rules," Evans said. "I can't say yes or no... Timing is to his advantage."

Long is no stranger to putting his name on things: To call the department of insurance you dial 1-800-JIM-LONG.

The recording features his voice: "This is insurance commissioner Jim Long. I want to thank you for calling your Department of Insurance."

The $700 million refund is the largest in North Carolina history. As of 2002, this state had the 8th lowest car insurance rates in the country.

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