Insurance Rates Issue In Governor's Race
By Shelley Kofler, KERA News
Dallas, TX – As early voting begins today, candidates are busy targeting opponents with accusations.
How can you separate fact from fiction?
One good resource we want to tell you about is PolitiFact Texas, an effort by journalists researching candidate claims.
KERA's Shelley Kofler looks at allegations about Governor Perry and insurance rates. Here's what PolitiFact tracked down, and some additional information we found.
Last month a political group, Back to Basics, accused Governor Rick Perry of using his office to help insurance companies boost profits.
Ad: Rick Perry just raised our insurance bill again. Under Rick Perry Texas insurance companies have made over $14 billion in gross profits.
The Back to Basics TV ad made several claims including this one:
Ad: Perry pushed for a law that let's insurance companies raise homeowner rates without having to justify the increase.
Gardner Selby, the editor of PolitiFact Texas, wanted to know: is that true?
Selby: First we looked at what the law was, what did get passed. Second we looked at whether Perry pushed for that approach.
PolitiFact researchers went back to 2002 when Perry was first running for Governor. Home insurance premiums were escalating as claims for mold damage skyrocketed. Perry called for insurance reform and told lawmakers in 2003 to put the brakes on runaway insurance costs.
Selby: They passed a measure, Senate Bill 14. Governor Perry did sign it into law. It shifted all the insurance providers to what they call a file-and-use system.
Consumer groups have blasted the file-and-use procedure because it allows insurance companies to file notice of higher rates and begin collecting them immediately before the state insurance commission justifies the increase. File-and-use supporters say there's a remedy, state regulators can order insurance companies to refund excessive fees with interest. But consumer groups complain companies can collect excessive fees for years while rate disputes are appealed.
So did Perry push for the law as the ad claims? PolitiFact's Selby says there's no proof of that.
Selby: We rated this statement false because its lynchpin is that Perry pushed for this approach that's not supported by evidence including news reports.
But Perry did sign the practice into law and he recently told KERA he likes it.
Perry September 8: File and use has worked well and it's been able to keep the rates down.
We checked the most recent figures compiled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for 2007 and found Texas homeowner premiums have not risen as dramatically as premiums in some other states.
But the Back to Basics ad appears to be right when it says this:
Ad: Texas insurance rates are 75% higher than other states.
Actually Texas rates are 76% higher than the national average. Texan's pay the second highest home insurance premiums in the country.
Perry: We have a lot of hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires. And you have to have the ability to recoup those losses.
Governor Rick Perry blames Mother Nature.
Perry opponent Bill White claims Texas has high insurance rates because Perry receives large contributions from industry members and some Perry staffers have become wealthy insurance lobbyists.