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EDITORIAL ; Clear Roadblocks to Auto Reform

Sep 3, 2007

It's a miracle Massachusetts policy-makers ever managed to find consensus on a health insurance reform law, because even the most incremental progress in reforming our AUTOinsurance system has some of them tied in knots.

Insurance Commissioner Nonnie Burnes last week released the regulations that she proposes to govern the auto insurance market, and folks, we're talking pretty timid stuff here.

Yes, insurers would, for the first time in three decades, be permitted to set their own rates instead of having the government do it for them. (Massachusetts was the only state in the nation to do so).

But at least for now, the list of factors that insurers MAY consider in setting rates is a whole lot shorter than the list of factors they MAY NOT.

Insurers would not be permitted to consider most socioeconomic factors, such as income level, home ownership or marital status, as insurers in most other states do. At least for the first year, they would not be allowed to consider a driver's credit score in setting premiums.

In other words, insurers would be permitted to consider factors related to a customer's driving record. What a concept.

This is the tiniest of baby steps, and we're hardly convinced it will entice all those insurers who have fled Massachusetts to come back.

But there are STILL those - Sen. Dianne Wilkerson (D-Boston) among them - whose knee-jerk opposition to ANYchange has the potential to block these reforms.

Wilkerson has vowed to exhaust every legislative option to fight Burnes' proposal, and sadly, we believe her. Meanwhile, Rep. John Rogers (D-Norwood) told the State House News Service that if it "ain't broke, don't fix it."

Trouble is, any system that substitutes a government bureaucrat for the market, punishing good drivers for the benefit of bad, IS "broke." And fix it we must.

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

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