NJ Creates Task Force on Urban Area Insurance

May 1, 2003

New Jersey’s Insurance Commissioner, Holly C. Bakke, has implemented the call by Governor James E. McGreevey to tackle the special problems the state’s urban consumers face when looking for insurance, with an order establishing a Task Force on Urban Area Insurance.

“In New Jersey’s cities, buying insurance is often much easier said than done,” Governor McGreevey had stated. “The purpose of this task force is to get beyond the anecdotes. We must gather the facts, analyze the patterns that emerge and find ways to address the insurance issues unique to urban New Jersey.”

The Task Force, to be based within the Department of Banking and Insurance, and will gather data and advise the Division of Insurance on a range of issues, concerning the availability and cost of insurance in New Jersey’s urban centers.

Commissioner Bakke signed the order formally creating the task force, following discussions with Sen. Ronald L. Rice, D-Newark, who is the sponsor of S-63, which contains Governor McGreevey’s proposals for improving the auto insurance market while creating new consumer protections.

The bulletin said the “Governor’s insurance plan will stop the policies that force good drivers to subsidize bad drivers, impose zero tolerance for fraud, create a tough new crime of insurance fraud and establish new consumer protections such as a Bill of Rights for consumers and a requirement that companies give consumers three different premium scenarios.” It specifically recognizes that “drivers in urban areas face unique challenges in obtaining not only auto insurance but other types of insurance as well.”

Commissioner Bakke explained that New Jersey’s complex insurance laws and regulations can have unintended consequences, affecting different groups in different ways. “It’s important that this task force get to the bottom of the insurance shopping experience,” she continued. “As we reform our auto insurance marketplace, we must take all necessary steps to ensure access and fair treatment for all New Jersey customers, including urban consumers.” The Task Force will also address factors that can make other types of coverage, such as health insurance or medical malpractice coverage, difficult to find or afford.

Panel members will include urban insurance agents, representatives from both property and casualty and health insurers, experts in urban affairs or urban redevelopment, and two public members. Director of Insurance Donald Bryan will chair the task force. Special Deputy Commissioner Rolando Torres Jr. and Assistant Director for Auto Insurance Lisa P. Thornton will also work with the task force. Thornton will focus on problems in commercial lines, such as business liability coverage, while Torres will focus on better delivery systems for personal lines, such as auto coverage.

Other Task Force members will be named shortly, and the panel will hold its first meeting within 60 days.

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