Insurance commissioner candidates split on solutions for high auto insurance rates

Updated: Sep. 17, 2019 at 9:42 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The race for Louisiana Insurance Commissioner is becoming one of this election season’s most competitive battles, with challenger Tim Temple pinning the state’s high auto insurance rates on incumbent Jim Donelon.

Louisianans paid an average of $2,298 for their yearly car insurance premiums in 2019, according to Only Michigan had a higher average rate.

“Commissioner Donelon is the architect of the worst insurance market in America," Temple said Monday, Sept. 16 at a forum hosted by the Baton Rouge Press Club.

Temple, a former insurance agent and executive, said he would entice more insurers to write policies in Louisiana by allowing them to raise auto insurance rates twice each year. Donelon will only allow insurers to raise their rates once each year.

“We need new blood, new companies in the state of Louisiana - not just focusing on a handful that write today,” said Temple. “Competition is what drives rates, not legislative mandates.”

Temple said insurance companies that do not write policies in Louisiana have indicated to him they would return to the state if that rule changed. He argues that prices will fall as more companies begin writing policies in the state.

But Donelon contends the legislature would never allow the change.

“They’re not going to require that I approve rate increases every six months just to please insurance companies that want to sneak rate increases by in half-bites,” Donelon said.

Instead, he pitched a plan that would limit attorneys’ ability to file a lawsuit after an accident.

“It’s our broken legal system that is the long-time cause of our insurance rates being as high as they are in this state,” Donelon said.

But the legislature shot down a similar plan last session after insurance companies could not guarantee the measure would reduce rates.

Both candidates are republicans and are taking campaign donations from the insurance industry.

Donelon pointed to State Farm and Progressive rate decreases as evidence that his leadership is working. Temple said he would push insurance companies to use technology to set premiums for individuals, rather than relying on characteristics like gender, employment status, and credit score.

Both candidates said they would support a ban on the “widow’s penalty,” where auto insurers charge higher rates for drivers with dead spouses. Donelon noted that no company is currently doing that in Louisiana.

Election day is Oct. 12. Because there are only two candidates in the race, there will be no runoff.

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