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EDITORIAL - Managed Competition

Aug 2, 2007

For years, Massachusetts consumers have watched with amusement those GEICO insurance commercials with the, natch, gecko (a lizard) - but they have watched them only with amusement.

That's because GEICO is one of many national insurers that refuses to sell automobile insurance in Massachusetts. For 60 years car insurance has been regulated to the point that the best companies can't make a sufficient return to justify their trouble. But consumers have not benefited. When the GEICO gecko says: "Fifteen minutes could save you 15 percent on your car insurance," it is appealing to viewers across the state line.

There is some hope that is going to change. In his first major departure from political orthodoxy as long practiced in Massachusetts, Governor Patrick has authorized "managed competition," starting next year. If that sounds like an 2oxymoron, it could prove to be just that. But firms will, for the first time in a quarter century, be able to offer their own rates, subject to review by the insurance commissioner. Consumers, in turn, will be able to shop around for better rates.

This isn't guaranteed to bring self-expatriated insurers flocking back to the state. But it is a small step in the right direction, and, as we suggest, it is an indication that candidate Deval Patrick meant it when he said he would look for good ideas from any point in the political spectrum.

The key - as it is with the one-year-old health-care law - is follow-through. Elected officials tend to think that grand signing ceremonies are the end of the process of reform, when, in fact they should be seen as only the beginning. "Managed competition" will need to be monitored as it is implemented, and modified going forward as needs be. But if it is implemented with care it promises a brighter day for Massachusetts motorists.

(c) 2007 Providence Journal. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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