2002-09-26 / Other News

Task Force Seeking To Reduce Brooklyn’s Auto Insurance Rates

Trying to  reduce car insurance premiums, Borough President Marty Markowitz (above center) recently chaired the inaugural meeting of the Brooklyn Auto Insurance Task Force at Borough Hall. 	     Kathryn KirkTrying to reduce car insurance premiums, Borough President Marty Markowitz (above center) recently chaired the inaugural meeting of the Brooklyn Auto Insurance Task Force at Borough Hall. Kathryn Kirk

Borough President Marty Markowitz chaired the first meeting of his Brooklyn Auto Insurance Task Force on September 18. The goal of the task force is to try and reduce auto insurance rates in Brooklyn that are the highest in the state, if not the country. One way the task force is focusing on to help lower these soaring rates is to crack down on insurance fraud, which is the second most costly white-collar crime in America.

"Because premiums are unaffordable for many Brooklynites, the number of uninsured drivers is skyrocketing, putting everyone in danger. There is no legitimate reason why premiums in Queens, for example, are much less than in Brooklyn. This is a deadly serious economic and public safety issue that needs to be addressed immediately." Markowitz said.

New York State Insurance Department Superintendent Gregory Serio was in attendance and discussed some of the reasons for Brooklyn’s extraordinary premiums and the steps the department is taking to keep premiums down. He called for changes in State law to fight fraud, the chief factor behind rising premiums. Serio stressed that Albany must enact anti-fraud legislation, even if it’s just for pilot programs. Serio also said that the ultimate goal must be to get people into a long-term relationship with an insurance carrier.

Representatives of insurance companies said that the key to reducing premiums was controlling costs — specifically, putting a lid on fraud — and that Albany must also enact new laws to make this a reality. These should include a law to make "running" a felony, rather than just a misdemeanor. "Runners" are individuals who steer parties injured in an auto accident to dishonest medical providers and lawyers who inflate claims. One underwriter said that "runners" are so out of control that they’re handing out their cards in hospital emergency rooms. Another underwriter said that many tow truck drivers are also acting as "runners."

Several approaches for reducing premiums were discussed, including:

•Offering discounted insurance through affinity groups such as professional organizations and churches.

•Establishing a plan through which insurers could "bid" to write individual policies.

•Enacting a "padlock law" to allow the authorities to close down "medical mills" which generate inflated claims.

•The State Department of Health could take additional action against the professional licenses of doctors and others who participate in insurance fraud.

Members of the Brooklyn Auto Insurance Task Force who attended the meeting included Jay Shapiro, the former Chief of Rackets for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who is the task force’s ‘pro bono’ counsel on auto insurance; Brooklyn native John Reiersen, an underwriter and a member of the State Motor Vehicle Theft & Insurance Fraud Prevention Board; Fidel Del Valle, a former City Taxi & Limousine Commissioner, who is assisting the task force on insurance issues that have particularly hit Brooklyn’s livery industry hard; Fred Cirlin and Handel Edwards, two Brooklyn insurance brokers; Mike Fella from the National Insurance Crime Bureau; Robert Kleinberg, a Brooklyn chiropractor who is helping in the fight against fraudulent billing practices; New York State Insurance Department First Deputy Superintendent Lou Pietroluongo

Among the many insurance companies who participated included AIG, Allstate, GEICO, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, Progessive, Prudential, Travelers and Statewide.

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