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'Insurance: Open the Books'

July 22, 1987

Congratulations to The Times for its editorial, "Insurance: Open the Books," (July 1). As stated in that editorial, it is indeed time that this super-privileged industry had some kind of public accountability concerning its practices and rate charges to a hostage consuming public. Any consumer living in the Los Angeles area, having had to deal with an insurance company over the last number of years, knows well the long litany of horrors: Obscene increases in premiums, red-lining, shoddy claims practices, general lack of interest by the insurance companies to any form of accountability to the public.

Your editorial demands that the insurance industry open its books and allow open scrutiny as to why it claims these ridiculous increases in insurance premiums are justified. Beyond question, this is called for. What does this industry have to hide? Indeed if they need to raise premiums, why can't they be under reasonable scrutiny for this purpose? The only possible conclusion as to why they always stonewall this concept is that they do not want the light of day to shine on reasons why they have had increases in profits of 500% over the prior year.

Notwithstanding that kind of profit, what we do see, however, is the latest move by the insurance industry to restrict victims' rights and to introduce a new initiative to reduce the responsibility of manufacturers making defective products and lessen the liability of insurance companies subject to punitive damages.

As we saw a year ago, they are singing a siren song that with the passage of this proposed initiative, insurance premiums will be lessened and more insurance will be available. Haven't we heard that song before? Yes, it was called Proposition 51. Since its passage, the insurance industry has done absolutely nothing to lessen premiums and in fact has gone in quite the opposite direction--premiums have again escalated and insurance is less available than it was a year ago.

This state therefore needs meaningful insurance reform: (1) an insurance commissioner that is not the handmaiden of the insurance industry; (2) removal of the insurance industry's anti-trust exemption; (3) flex rating as called for in the Assemblyman Lloyd Connelly (D-Sacramento) bill; and, (4) a sunshine law requiring the insurance companies to open their books. With such reform, Californians can be liberated from the economic tyranny of the insurance industry.

BROWNE GREENE

President

California Trial Lawyers Assn.

Sacramento

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