Aug 26, 2009
Senate Republicans thumb their noses at Michigan consumers
LANSING -- Michigan Senate Republicans continue to stand up for the powerful and thumb their noses at Michigan consumers, but Sen. Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit, called them out on the Senate floor on Wednesday.
The House passed a package of 12-bills last week on Aug. 19 that holds insurance companies accountable who wrongfully deny customer claims. The package of bills were referred to the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Regulatory Reform today, and the chair of the Committee, Sen. Alan Sanborn, R-Richmond, is an extreme right-winger, and he has said publicly he has no intention of even holding a hearing on the bills.
That did not sit well with the Senate Minority Floor Leader.
“I object to those referrals and hope that the Senate would change that referral,” Thomas said. “I do so because the chair of the committee has already indicated, even before those bills were sent over to the Senate, that they would receive absolutely zero consideration or debate. In fact, one news report quoted the chair as saying, ‘Do you want these bills labeled do not resuscitate or dead on arrival when they come to the Senate.’"
The House Insurance Committee took some very emotional testimony as people talked about paying their premiums for years, but the insurance company simply refusing to pay at all or delaying it for years so they can settle for a much lower cost.
“Michigan citizens who routinely and regularly pay their insurance premiums expect, when they file a claim, to be offered an opportunity at some form of benefit, “ Thomas said. “The issue of insurance companies wrongfully denying consumers who have legitimate claims in their time of need deserves a thorough, open discussion in the Michigan Senate.”
The chair of the House insurance Committee, Rep. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, was targeted with robo calls, and she and Democratic members of the committee were subjected to attack radio ads by a group called the “Coalition to Insure Michigan's Future.” Sanborn even showed up at the House committee hearings to assure the insurance industry that they had nothing to fear as they continue to reap record profits.
“If the chair of the committee is so confident in his position that he is willing to attend a House hearing and declare this effort over before it's even begun, he should have the courage to hold the hearings and take a vote,“ Thomas said. “If he truly believes his own rhetoric and reasoning, debate your position and let us move on to a vote.”
Senate Republicans have routinely given insurance companies every protection possible at the expense of consumers. In fact, 46 other states have enacted similar protections proposed for consumers that have been bankrupted by profiteering insurance companies who put profits above people.
“If the majority expects anyone to take them seriously when they claim to care about the economic struggles of Michigan families, they will refer these bills to a committee willing to consider them, since again, regretfully, the chair of the committee now with jurisdiction is apparently unwilling to hear from those who have been wronged,” Thomas said.
Michigan insurance companies have also been allowed to legally discriminate against Detroit drivers and other urban drivers for years in the form of Redlining. Detroit consumers pay an average of more than $5,000 a year for auto insurance, the highest rate in the nation. Michigan consumers pay among the highest insurance rates in the nation.
But Senate Republicans refuse to allow the redlining bills to move. Sen. Martha G. Scott, D-Highlander Park, is the sponsor of the anti-redlining bills, and a rally is planned for September 30 on the Capitol lawn to fight the practice of redlining and the high cost of auto insurance.