Calif. Commissioner to Examine Broker Disclosure, Workers’ Comp Issues

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner may have three major priorities for his office — to make his office non-partisan, to fight insurance fraud and to prepare the state for the next major disaster — but that doesn’t mean he won’t be addressing heavily debated insurance issues such as broker disclosure and compensation and workers’ compensation reform during his term as well.

Addressing a crowd of more than 250 agents and brokers at the Insurance Brokers and Agents of the West Annual Meeting in Sacramento yesterday, Poizner said his role is to protect consumers. And in doing that, he believes consumers should have “all the information they need” regarding compensation.

Poizner noted that because the previous commissioner John Garamendi, now Lieutenant Governor, decided that voluntary disclosure guidelines were enough to protect consumers, he wants to ensure that’s true. He said an advisory group would be examining the issue in the next several weeks. “If the voluntary rules are working, then great,” he said. “If not, we’ll continue to pursue a solution.”

With regard to workers’ compensation reform, he said the state is “definitely moving in the right direction, but rates are still higher than the national average.” Consequently, he said he would be looking for ways to “fine tune” the system.

“Am I going to be as hostile as the last guy?” he said, summing up an audience-member’s question. “I’m going to fulfill my legal obligations to protect consumers,” he said in response, but he reassured agents and brokers that he realized accomplishing that was a “balancing act.”

“If a company is doing something illegal I’m going to come down [on it] like a ton of bricks,” he said. Yet he noted California also needs to have a business-friendly climate to ensure a healthy insurance market. “We need an environment where the rules are enforced but one that attracts producers,” he said.