INSURANCE-BACKED INITIATIVE DECEIVES CONSUMERS, SAY PUBLIC INTEREST GROUPS
By Miriam Raftery
May 28, 2010 (San Diego) – Mercury Insurance is the sole sponsor of Proposition 17, though it hides its identity behind the deceptively name Campaign for Consumer Rights. Mercury wants to repeal portions of a law that prohibit it from charging higher rates to consumers who dropped insurance coverage for 90 days, missed a single payment, or were not previously insured (even if a teen had a perfect record driving a paren'ts car).
Yesterday, Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Mary Salas held a press conference with Votevets.org chairman Jon Soltz to warn that Prop 17 unfairly penalizes veterans who drop coverage while serving overseas or in the U.S. “Soldiers and veterans would be required to pay up to $1,000 more a year for auto insurance when they sought to restart coverage,” Salas cautions.
Charging higher premiums for drivers based on their history of buying insurance has been illegal in California for over 20 years, though Juan Vargas, Salas’ political opponent, tried to pass a legislative version of Prop 17 when he chaired the Insurance Committee back in 2003. Vargas has taken $60,000 in direct contributions from insurers. The Civil Justice Association, whose board is largely composed of insurance industry representatives, spent another $613,333 in support of Vargas through an independent expenditure campaign. Insurance funds have also targeted State Senator Denise Ducheney (D-San Diego) for defeat.
Earlier this month, the San Diego Union-Tribune urged its readers to vote no on Prop 17 because it takes away protections from veterans. Most other major newspapers in the state have also weighed in against the measure. (As a nonprofit, nonpartisan publication, East County Magazine does not take positions on candidates or ballot initiatives.)
Campaign for Consumer Rights advocate Harvey Rosenfield says it’s a David vs. Goliath battle against the insurance giant. “They’ve been carpetbagging the state with ads. We’re just throwing a rock back with a sling shot.”