Oxendine Expresses Concerns About Ga. Market

February 27, 2003

Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine recently spoke out on the need for judicial reform as a way to encourage insurers to compete for business in the state. According to the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII), in a recent presentation to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Oxendine addressed a number of issues, including the need for tort reform, the role of surplus lines in a tough insurance market, and the feasibility of a bill to introduce product liability for non-profit hospitals.

“Commissioner Oxendine clearly recognizes the need for serious insurance reform in order to turn around Georgia’s lackluster insurance market,” said James Taylor, southeastern regional manager for the NAII. “He is echoing concerns the insurance industry has voiced for years.”

Oxendine downplayed the role of legislation to further regulate rates and forms, stating he was unaware of a case where greater government regulation increased competition. Rather, tort reform will be the real enticement for insurers to do business in the state, especially in a bad economy, he said. Although insurance rates will not come down overnight, Oxendine predicted increased competition would eventually reduce premiums.

When asked if surplus lines insurers should be price controlled, Oxendine said although surplus lines is a “necessary evil,” standardized regulation between the states could improve their operation.

The commissioner also discussed H.B. 326, which would create a state-sponsored liability product for non-profit hospitals. While he thought the bill could work, Oxendine was concerned about how the product would be paid for. He suggested either a risk pool or a subsidy on insurers or taxpayers.

Chamber members were concerned about the bill’s $250,000 cap on medical liability cases, and recommended adding a clearer definition of non-economic damages, and establishing collateral source and joint and several liability to the bill.

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