What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Insurers Screw Consumers: Democratic Congress Fights to Protect Us

 Insurers Screw Consumers: Democrats Fight to Protect Us

Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., listens to opening remarks on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday during a hearing of the House Housing and Community Opportunity subcommittee, as they consider the Multiple Peril Insurance Act of 2007.
Sun Herald

by Ana Maria

"Greed is the main disconnect in this situation," said Taylor, D-Miss. "It's easy for them to walk around in their Gucci suits and defend their companies, but the reality is down there on the Gulf Coast, where all of the destroyed homes and property of my constituents are. Of course, these companies don't want to change the rules that are currently in their favor.

"People who played by the rules and expected insurance companies to play by the same rules got screwed," said Taylor, whose bill would create financially sound premium levels to make the NFIP self-supporting.

Taylor, insurers lock horns over bill
Sun Herald
July 18, 2007

Toward the end of the subcommittee hearing on the Multiple Peril Insurance Act that Congress held the other day, the chairwoman of the committee, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif, “chastised the insurance industry representatives for criticizing Taylor's plan without offering a solution to reform the NFIP to add wind damage protection.”

As mentioned in yesterday’s piece, Democrats Shame, Skewer Insurance Shills, the corporate shills all sang from the same song sheet. Their tune? “All we are saying, is keep things the same” with this thrown in for variety’s sake “All we are saying is keep our profits the same.”

One of those verses was “state sponsored mediation.” Of course, they would want that. They have all the marbles in their corner. The insurance company writes the policy. We have to have insurance for loans to build homes and businesses. Then, here in Mississippi, the insurance companies own the Insurance Commissioner George Dale who said Katrina “put an undue burden on the insurance companies.”

Fortunately, Dale is up to be booted out of office in the primary on August 7th. [Read about Gary Anderson, the real Democratic candidate for insurance commissioner.]

Think about it. What negotiating power do we have as consumers? We can go from one insurance company to another to price shop or look for various coverage options. However, we do not negotiate the coverage itself. It’s a take it or leave it proposition. We have no right or vehicle to negotiate terms or coverage. As a result, the entire insurance industry has us over a barrel. I believe the legal term for this is “inherent power”, and courts have ruled that it is illegal for them to act in bad faith because of it. Essentially, we are at the mercy of insurance companies.

In the recent racketeering lawsuit that the Scruggs Katrina Group filed against State Farm, Forensic Analysis & Engineering Corp., and E.A. Renfroe & Company, Inc., we learn that State Farm allegedly participated in “mock mediation” meetings where they rehearsed concealing the existence of the engineering reports that said wind damaged the policyholders homes. SKG alleges that State Farm attorneys provided the script for the mediation for which “the purpose and aim . . . was to demoralize policyholders and create the impression that no degree of forensic evidence would convince State Farm and/or Renfroe to pay the full value of their insured hurricane damages.” Yeah, that sure sounds quite neighborly to me. More like the neighbor from hell.

During the course of the negotiations that Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Dale pushed, State Farm and their partners “actively and fraudulently concealed information and prevented the plaintiffs [the consumers/policyholders] from obtaining information that could be used in their favor.

With the deck stacked in the insurance companies’ favor and without any evidence of any kind of moral fiber in the being of the captains of or mouthpieces for this industry, of course, they would recommend that the state legally mandate mediation. You and I are standing before them naked as jay birds without any armor to protect our homes, families, businesses, employees or customers. They get their fat corporate bonuses and we get . . . what was that word that Congressman Gene Taylor used? Oh yeah, “screwed.”

Taylor had an additional few choice words for the six corporate shills who advocated maintaining the status quo.

“I want to tell each of you today to defend this [holding up a photo of a home that had $600,000 worth of insurance and got not one penny from their wind insurance policy], to defend those profits [$40 billion in 2005, the year of Katrina and over $60 billion in 2006] to defend the practice where they can call each other up and say “Let’s all raise our rates. You take this state. You take that one. Or even better, let’s all back out for a little while. And then we’ll come back in, and we’ll quadruple the rates and the people will be so desperate because they know hurricane season’s right around the corner, they’ll pay us anything.”

“To say that doesn’t need to change, to say that it’s ok, well, you gotta, you gotta live with yourself. And I’m sure, quite frankly, that your financial portfolio looks a whole lot better than these guys (as Taylor picks up one of the photos of a gorgeous home that had at least a half million dollars in insurance coverage but received not one penny), but the bottom line is that it does have to change. It is not a ‘what if’. It has already happened.

“So the question is when does it happen to North Carolina? When does it happen in New York? When does it happen in New Jersey? When does it happen in Connecticut? When does it happen to Georgia? When does it happen to South Carolina? Because it’s gonna happen.. . .”

Click Here To View Archived Webcast
start at 2:36 to watch all of
Congressman Taylor’s riveting final remarks

Taylor thanked the Democratic leadership for holding five hearings on the matter since taking over in January. He said “in the 15 months after the storm, the guys that used to run this committee didn’t see fit to have one hearing on the kind of abuses that took place by the thousands in Mississippi. In the months since the Democrats have taken over, they have had five. We’ve had a promise of a vote.”

Great! Thank GAWD for Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA). Pelosi lead a 20+ Democratic Congressional delegation here to review the Katrina-ravaged areas of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. These Democratic congressional representatives attended a town meeting in my hometown of Bay St. Louis, Miss., and listened intently to a cross section of people tell their nightmare stories: Republican and Democrat, wealthy and far less than wealthy. By way of contrast, their colleagues on the other side of the aisle have not done the same.

The Sun Herald reported that Taylor “hopes to see the bill approved by the House committee and sent to the full House for a vote before the August recess.” In his final comment at the hearing, Congressman Taylor said “To sit back and to do nothing would be the greatest wrong of all.”

Taylor’s final comment is a great segue to today’s Political Hell Raising Activities. Go here to contact by email and phone the members of this subcommittee. The point of this is to ask them to vote in favor of H.R. 920, the Multiple Peril Insurance Act of 2007. This is the way to move through the legislative process as active, thoughtful, and effective participants in our American democratic system. Think of it as an easy way to help us screw over an industry that has long abandoned and betrayed us.

Additional resources
H.R. 920
FAQ regarding the Multiple Peril Insurance Act of 2007
Rep. Gene Taylor Asks AIA to Retract Report
Trent Lott's letter of support
The Official Hearing Website

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