By Dwayne Bremer
Feb 15, 2008
One of state Sen. David Baria's major campaign pledges was to help reform the way Mississippi conducts business with insurance companies.
Upon taking office in January, Baria promptly introduced seven bills which he said would help reform the system.
Unfortunately, there is now a very strong chance none of his bills will even make it to the Senate floor for consideration, he said.
Baria said Friday he was told by Insurance Committee Chairman Eugene Clark his bills will not make it out of the committee stage--which has a deadline of Tuesday for presenting bills to the full Senate.
If a bill is not submitted by the deadline, then it cannot be reviewed again until the next term in 2009.
"It's very frustrating," Baria said. "It is two and a half years after Katrina. The people on the Gulf Coast are suffering with the insurance situation. I think another year of waiting will only prolong the suffering."
Baria said there is nothing in all of his bills which will in any way adversely affect the rest of the home-owners in the state. In fact, the bills will potentially help all Mississippi home owners, he said.
Some of Baria's ideas include giving credits or better rates for homes which are constructed with techniques which reduce the amount of potential loss; putting the burden of proof on the insurer; defining certain concurrent causation exclusions as unfair; disallowing the commissioner of insurance from receiving "gifts" from insurance companies; setting limits on the reasons for cancellation; requiring explanations of claim denials; and requiring that insurance companies cannot deny coverage on the basis of credit reports.
One of the concurrent causation exclusions Baria said he is fighting hard to eliminate is an exclusion policy which allows for insurance companies to be exempt from coverage when wind causes damage which in turn results in rain water damage, but the home also has surge damage.
Baria said he has garnered a lot of support from his Democratic colleagues in the Senate.
"They are very receptive," he said. "They want to help the Coast. They would like to have a chance to vote on these issues."
Baria said Clark, a Republican from Hollindale told him Thursday that the reason why the bills are not being brought from committee is because Clark said he is new to insurance issues and he wanted more time to study the situation. Baria said the people of the Gulf Coast are tired of waiting.
"My folks cannot wait any longer, it's been two years," he said.
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