Compare Insurance Rates & Save

Op-Ed ; On Auto Insurance, Gov Won't Drive Us to Poor House

Jul 5, 2007


As a lawyer and a politician, Deval Patrick has defended rapists, racial quotas and even reparations for slavery.

Now he's ready to defend something truly radical: capitalism.

In a move utterly unexpected from the "Cadillac of Governors," Patrick may become a champion of free markets and consumer choice - at least in the area of auto insurance.

A panel appointed by Patrick in January to consider car insurance reform has recommended less government interference and (members of the Massachusetts teachers unions may want to sit down for this) "competitive, market-based" insurance rates.

Instead of denouncing them as right-wing extremists, Patrick called the panel's recommendations "a meaningful first step introducing a level of competition which will prove beneficial to all Massachusetts drivers."

For a business-basher like Patrick, that's positively Reaganesque.

Now comes word that Patrick's insurance commissioner, Nonnie Burnes, has been overheard suggesting that there may be something to this whole "free enterprise" system after all.

When confronted with these rumors, the Patrick administration did not throw the usual Massachusetts liberal tantrum and throw the bourgeoisie under the anti-big-business bus. Instead, a spokesman merely denied that Patrick has made a decision either way.

Which sent state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson (D-Boston) into a pseudo- Marxist frenzy. "I think this is potentially the worst, negative economic policy decision that faces this governor during his tenure," she said, calling market-based auto insurance a "disaster."

Maybe capitalism is a "disaster," but without it, Massachusetts has the fourth highest car insurance rates in America. We're also the only state that lets state regulators, not the market, set rates.

Wilkerson points out that state regulators have lowered rates three years in a row. She's right. But according to the Insurance Fraud Bureau, most of that reduction came from a statewide crackdown on insurance fraud. About half of rate cuts since 2004 can be traced back to reducing fraud in just five communities: Lawrence, Haverhill, Methuen, Andover and North Andover.

Lawrence is notorious for auto insurance fraud. But thanks to the Massachusetts system, drivers across the state pay higher premiums to subsidize the bad behavior in Lawrence. How is that fair?

To her credit, Wilkerson acknowledges that "fair" is not her objective. Her objective is to protect people who live in high- claims, high-crime, high-risk areas - i.e., her constituents - from the consequences of their actions.

Ask Wilkerson why our government-controlled insurance system has rates 25 percent higher than the national average, and Wilkerson blames Bay Staters for being lousy drivers (her words, not mine). It's not the system, she claims, it's the stupidity of the people of Massachusetts.

Well, every state has some bad drivers, of course. But our bad drivers are the worst of the worst, passing an estimated $300 million in costs onto the rest of us. That's because, in Massachusetts, the worse you drive, the more subsidies you get from good drivers.

Dangerous drivers who would be paying $6,000 or more per year in New York or Connecticut can pay as little as $2,000 here. Who pays the other $4,000? All you suckers driving in the right-hand lane and obeying the speed limit.

It's not fair. It's not right. And, as astonishing as it may sound, the champion of capitalism who steps forward to stop it may be Deval Patrick of Milton (Friedman?), Mass.

Michael Graham is a talk host on WTKK 96.9 FM.

(c) 2007 Boston Herald. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

Insurance News: Op-Ed ; On Auto Insurance, Gov Won't Drive Us to Poor House ; Get an insurance quote! « Back