LANSING — Members of the House Democratic Caucus held a press conference today to announce a series of bills intended to improve insurance dealings between providers and policy holders in Michigan. The 14-bill package will help keep rates low while increasing punishments for companies that use unfair or deceptive practices.
“The Republican plan to gut no-fault insurance is just a recipe to boost insurance company profits,” said state Representative Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek), Democratic vice chairwoman of the House Insurance Committee. “It’s time to look out for Michigan consumers by finally requiring that insurance companies deal fairly and honestly with their policyholders to get them the benefits they pay for.”
The bills fall into one of three categories. The first is consumer protection. The bills in this section compel insurers to act in good faith when policyholders file a claim, impose a fine when insurers fail to act in good faith on multiple occasions and allow individuals to sue their insurers when the company takes unfair or deceptive action.
“I’m appalled that current law doesn’t protect consumers who are victims of unethical insurance companies,” said Rep. Theresa Abed (D-Grand Ledge), who sponsored the bill requiring good faith actions. “It’s only right — when a company acts improperly, it should be held accountable.”
The second area is affordability. These bills prohibit insurers from raising rates or premiums when consumers are involved in an accident that is not their fault, make it harder for companies to charge excessive rates, force companies to justify rate increases and bar companies from using certain information when setting rates, such as education, occupation or place of residency.
“Michigan drivers pay some of the highest rates in the nation. We need to ensure that insurance customers aren’t getting gouged” said Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), who sponsored the excessive rates bill. “These bills take away excuses and force insurers to justify themselves before they jack up their prices.”
The final category is transparency. One bill gives insurance company employees who expose unfair or deceptive practices all the rights afforded under the Whistleblower Protection Act. A second bill creates a Whistleblower Protection Fund, which would compensate company whistleblowers and also education consumers about their rights as policyholders. Lastly, the legislation would increase transparency of the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA). The bill allows the director of the Department of Insurance and Financial Services to approve the MCCA fee all drivers pay and reject it if it is excessive. It also requires that a board member of the MCCA be a member of the general public and subjects the association to the Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act.
“We cannot allow the insurance industry to continue to operate in secret,” said Segal, who sponsored the whistleblower bills. “Shielding employees who come forward to expose bad actors will encourage disclosure of the truth and keep consumers safe from deceptive practices. Consumers must know when they are being treated unfairly.”