Sunday, October 11, 2009

FITZGERALD: Avoid a car insurance crash

car insurance

Opening your auto insurance bill this fall may result in whiplash more severe than a head-on collision. But unlike the deer in the middle of the road, this disaster was completely avoidable.

Democrat lawmakers included numerous auto insurance changes in the last state budget, causing rates to skyrocket. The sneaky part is that these policy provisions had absolutely nothing to do with balancing the state books.

You will now be required to have higher minimums on coverage, and multiple vehicle polices could be exposed to action from a single accident. In other words, if you have two cars with $1 million of insurance on each, you could be liable for all $2 million in damages, even if only one vehicle was involved in an accident.

The lone group that supported these changes will benefit from those bigger awards in lawsuits.

According to the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, these changes will boost auto insurance premiums by 33 percent for most drivers and more for low-income and middle-class drivers. Additionally, medical payment coverage premiums for motorcyclists could more than triple.

These modifications were attached to a budget document in the hopes that you wouldn’t notice. From the calls I am receiving at my office in Madison, however, their sleight of hand did not work.

Callers to my office are rarely irate. But since insurance bills list “legislative action” as the reason for the increase, my phone lines have been overheated with frustration.

The annoying part of that explanation is that every Republican in the Legislature, including myself, opposed these provisions. We offered specific amendments to remove the changes that would increase premiums but were rejected by the Democrat majority.

We pleaded with Democrats to not artificially increase insurance premiums, as the higher rates will hurt working families and small businesses. They heard us, but ignored our request. Nothing as trivial as premium increases during a recession was going to get in the way of the Democrat leadership flexing its muscle.

These significant rate hikes are hitting families at the worst time. With record unemployment, we should be working in Madison to reduce the burden on the family budget. Instead, Democrats made changes that take away options and dramatically increase rates on those already financially stressed.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Democrats were given absolute power in the last election. They chose to unnecessarily jack up your insurance rates. Now that is change you can do without.