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No On Prop. 33: Only Automobile Insurers Stand To Gain


Meet Kyle. He's a college student. He's focused on getting good grades and saving enough money to afford the rising costs of college. Like many of his classmates, he doesn't drive a car because it's cheaper to ride a bike and use public transportation.

If Proposition 33 passes, when Kyle graduates and finds a job that requires a car to commute, he will pay more for his auto insurance. Young people already pay higher auto insurance prices because they have less driving experience. Under Proposition 33, Kyle may pay an extra 40 percent surcharge for not buying insurance he didn't need when he didn't have a car.

No one should be penalized under the law just because they couldn't afford a car or chose not to drive. Proposition 33 lets insurance companies raise rates on Californians who don't drive for good reasons but now need to get back behind the wheel.

The backers of Proposition 33 want you to believe that they put an initiative on the ballot to give you a discount for buying insurance. Don't be fooled.

Some 99.1 percent of the money for Proposition 33 came from one insurance industry executive, George Joseph, the chairman of Mercury insurance company.

When was the last time an insurance industry billionaire spent $8 million to save you money?


Here's what's really going on. Car insurance companies used to double and triple the price, or refuse to sell insurance at all, to low-income and other drivers who didn't already have insurance.

Voters passed a law 24 years ago to outlaw such unfair pricing.

Proposition 33 would turn back the clock and allow insurers to surcharge Californians, even those with perfect driving records, if they didn't buy car insurance for more than 90 days at any time in the last five years.

If Proposition 33 passes, Californians who drop their insurance to recover from a serious illness or injury, the long-term unemployed who lost their jobs in this recession, and workers who commute on public transit will all pay more for car insurance when they get back on the road.

Even people who never had a lapse in their insurance will be hurt, because charging higher prices to people who don't already have insurance means more drivers will go uninsured because they can't afford coverage. That increases uninsured motorist premiums for everyone.

If this all sounds eerily familiar, it's because we've been here before.

In 2010, Joseph's Mercury insurance company spent $16 million on an almost identical ballot initiative that voters rejected. With this new attempt, Mercury has exempted active members of the military and people laid off for less than 18 months, because surcharging such sympathetic Californians got them too much bad press. But anyone else will pay the surcharge if they stop driving -- including the growing number of Californians who've been out of work for more than 18 months.

You don't have to take my word that Proposition 33 will mean higher auto insurance rates. In states where this kind of discriminatory pricing is  already legal, Mercury charges more than 50 percent more for auto insurance to people who did not have prior insurance, even if the reason was because they didn't drive or have a car. For example, online Mercury quotes for drivers without prior insurance are 103 percent higher in Florida, and 61 percent higher in Texas.

Working Californians have it hard enough these days. We shouldn't have to pay more for auto insurance because of another insurance industry trick. Say no to the auto insurance surcharge initiative. Vote No on Proposition 33 in November.
This op-ed originally posted on The Reporter of Vacaville, CA on 9/6/2012.