Thursday, October 14, 2010

Libertarian Candidate for Commissioner of Insurance Shane Bruce Responds to yet Another Insurance Journal Candidate Survey

These things are a grind.

With only 19 shopping days left until the election, the various and sundry purveyors of info about the Insurance Industrial Complex (IIC) have been bombarding the old inbox with survey after survey. They all have pressing deadlines that require my immediate attention and in my role of politician I find I cannot resist their siren songs of increased web presence and ever expanding readership.

So I take the bait and crunch out a response, here's an example of one coming to an Insurance Industry publication near you!

10 Questions for Georgia Insurance Commissioner Candidates

1. What do you see as the primary job of the Georgia insurance commissioner?

As I see it, the Commissioner of Insurance is charged with ensuring that Georgia citizens get the best bang for their insurance dollars that they can. That means that Georgian's have to have viable choices from a wide range of providers at competitive prices. As one of 14 elected Insurance Commissioners in the USA, Georgia's Insurance Commissioner is the voice of the people and must serve their interests. Not the interests of the companies he is responsible for regulating.

2. What will be your top 3 priorities as the next Georgia insurance commissioner and why?

#1. Move Georgia from the 8th most expensive state for auto insurance in the USA to a more respectable 25th or lower.

#2. Utilize the bully pulpit of the Office of the Commissioner to educate the people of Georgia on the horrendous effects our ultra high Insurance Premium Tax has had on keeping new providers out of Georgia as well as the negative effects of our 45 Health Insurance Mandates.

#3. Perform a stem to stern, top to bottom review of the office's current procedures, personnel and assets and drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

3. What should be the role of state government in making health insurance available and/or affordable?

As a Libertarian, the role of government should be limited. A lot of the problems we face in Georgia are the results of rent seeking corporations being able to limit competition through control of the state legislature. Our Health Insurance Mandates are a prime example of this. By intervening in our state's health insurance markets, our state and federal governments have limited competition, increased prices and reduced choice. A truly free market approach would have the opposite effect.

4. In March, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down a cap on medical malpractice awards passed in 2005. Do you support state legislated caps on medical malpractice awards? Why or why not?

As a Libertarian I do not support any restrictions on Liberty. Our health care delivery systems, the insurance providers and our friendly trial lawyers are locked in an unending struggle over money. All sides have gamed the system and now seek advantage by using the power of government to make sure that the citizens at large are on the hook. If a doctor makes a mistake and damage is done, redress should be available to the injured party. Redress has never been likened to winning the lottery.

5. What is your opinion of the role that independent insurance agents play in the insurance system?

I believe that role of the Independent Insurance agent has reached it's zenith, a while ago. Like the travel agents of the 90's, todays  independent rep is facing huge pressures from the internet not to mention the looming disaster of ObamaCare. What will their jobs become when the basic product they sell has no profit margin? 

6. Do you see part of the insurance commissioner’s job as attracting more insurance companies to Georgia? If so, how would you go about doing this?

Certainly. In order to attract more providers we have to get our insurance premium tax out of the equation. We have also got to drop our 45 health insurance mandates and insist that providers make them optional. If a citizen of Georgia wants heart transplant insurance, he or she should be able to select it with the click of a mouse. Just that easy. There should not be a state mandate that he has to have that coverage.

7. Do you support allowing local governments in Georgia to bill motorists for emergency response services at the scene of an automobile accident?

TANSTAAFL. It's old Libertarian saying that translates "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" and there ain't. If you wreck your car and it's towed, is that free? Nope. If somebody else wrecks your car and you wind up in the hospital is that free? Nope. Do police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and their assorted crews cost the public money at crash scenes? Yes. Should the public be forced to underwrite the expenses of crash victims through "free" services? A really big Nope.

8. Georgia law forbids public officials from taking money from the companies they regulate. Do you agree with this law? Do you think the commissioner or candidates should also be prohibited from accepting contributions from individual insurance agents or industry employees?

Absolutely. Georgia law forbids it but my opponents routinely ignore the requirements of the law by emphasizing that they are taking campaign contributions from citizens. The fact that those citizens own and operate insurance firms the Commissioner regulates is treated a secondary matter. From my perspective, this is a question of principle. If you intend to be a fair and impartial regulator, you cannot be influenced by those you will regulate. I have refused to take contributions from anyone in the insurance, small loan industry or any other activity regulated by the Office of the Commissioner. I have also called on my opponents to return any contributions they have received from those sources. The silence has been deafening.

9. Do you support insurance companies’ use of credit scores in underwriting? 

Depends. Are they selling car insurance or a credit card? Or both? I have come to understand during the course of the this campaign that insurance providers are not in the business of losing money. A good credit score is touted as evidence of proper and prudent judgement in financial matters that translates into safer operation of motor vehicles, hence the perfect customer that will pay premiums for years and not make a claim. The rest of the customers will simply have to pay more because of their not so great CBO scores, or their poor driving records, or the zip code where they reside or a host other reasons. I would like to point out that the citizens I've spoken with during this campaign are quite aware of credit scores in the car insurance industry as well as pre-existing conditions in the medical insurance industry and a lot of other insurance issues that stick in their craws. The voters are not happy with the state of insurance in Georgia and the CBO notion is one reason why. 

10. Will you promise not to use this office of Georgia insurance commissioner as a political stepping stone to run for another office?

This is a trick question right? John Oxendine was stuck there for 16 years until he got his head handed to him in the republican Governors primary.

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