Panhandle (W.Va.) Grassroots for Democracy

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Friday, April 01, 2005

Delegates work on compromise on insurance bill

From the Charleston Gazette:

Leadership of the House of Delegates and the insurance industry held talks Thursday in an attempt to reach a compromise on legislation that would ban third-party bad-faith lawsuits against the industry.

Proposed by Gov. Joe Manchin, the legislation (SB418) easily passed the state Senate last week by a 26-7 vote. House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, says the Senate bill will not pass the House.

“There’s not the votes to pass the governor’s bill in its same form,” he said Thursday morning.

The Senate version bans the lawsuits, which allow people to sue insurance companies they believe have tried to avoid paying them a fair settlement. Insurance firms and some business interests have been asking the Legislature to ban the suits for years.
“I respect the speaker and I have all the faith and confidence in him,” Manchin said of the talks.

The governor has said insurance companies have promised to lower automobile insurance by at least $50 million if the legislation passes. The firms have not made public the amount they would rebate to customers, however.

But the governor also believes insurance companies have been allowed to “gouge” state residents with high rates. All five surrounding states have lower rates and Manchin hopes banning the suits will lower West Virginia’s.

“My main concern is I want to put $50 million in the people’s pockets,” the governor said.

A compromise may be in the works that would allow the insurance commissioner to decide whether the insurance companies are dealing in bad faith. That would allow lawsuits to proceed. Hopefully the compromise version is approved because it is better than this legislation.


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