Local Politics

Proposal Would Give Auto Insurers Rate Control

Posted April 9, 2008 6:24 p.m. EDT
Updated April 9, 2008 8:49 p.m. EDT

— A legislative committee is expected to discuss a proposal Thursday that critics say could hike some auto insurance rates as much as 20 percent a year.

The proposed legislation would allow insurance companies to set their own rates instead of having the state commissioner of insurance do it, as happens now.

North Carolina has the sixth-lowest rates for auto insurance in the nation, with drivers paying an average of $602 a year. Those who oppose the drafted bill say that could change if insurance companies get more control.

"The only way to look at this is to see higher rates for drivers, more profits for insurance companies, less power for the people," said Chrissy Pearson with the state Department of Insurance.

Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, countered that the current system is unfair, with all drivers paying a surcharge that funds a coverage pool for risky drivers.

"There are many ways to look at this," Rand said. "One way is that it would be lower rates for some people who don't have to subsidize. What we're trying to do is get the subsidy out of this."

"This is very easy to make a lot of trite statements about 'we're protecting people.' But this is a very difficult problem to try to get straight," Rand added.

New Jersey has the nation's highest average premium, $1,184, followed by Washington, D.C., drivers paying $1,183. Drivers in New York, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Florida, Rhode Island and Delaware all pay more than $1,000 a year on average.

The Joint Study Committee on Automobile Insurance Modernization will likely only discuss the proposed bill Thursday. Rand said he is not sure whether the panel will vote on it.