Some Lawmakers Want To Change Auto Insurance Levels

State Budget Changed Some Insurance Requirements

Published On: Nov 24 2009 07:11:16 AM CST   Updated On: Nov 25 2009 08:39:23 AM CST

State lawmakers are once again considering changes to how much auto insurance coverage residents would be required to have.

But the question is whether these changes would cost drivers more in the long run or less right now.

The state budget passed in June changed a few things about residents' insurance. Residents are now required to have it on their car, but it's the minimum levels they're now supposed to have that some lawmakers want to change.

Being involved in a serious car crash can be bad enough, but it can be worse if the other driver responsible for the crash only has limited insurance.

"The question really today is not whether there should be minimum coverages. It is whether or not those minimum coverages adopted almost three decades ago are still meaningful coverages; are they still reasonable, protect state taxpayers, still protect citizens?" said Keith Clifford, with the Wisconsin Association for Justice.

But some lawmakers said the last thing cash-strapped residents want to see is a bigger bill in their mailbox now for newly required underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage.

"The public believes that people should have coverage, but if they can't afford it, they're not going to buy it and that forces more people to be uninsured," said Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette.

Some said the minimums have driven up costs, especially for a fleet of 43 Badger Cab taxis.

"As I understand it, it's about $50,000 more than we paid last year (for insurance), even though our claims had taken a decrease last year from previous years," said Kurt Schneider, with Badger Cab.

Insurance companies said it's because motorists are forced to carry coverage they don't need.

"If it comes down to eating or insurance, you know which one is going to win because people are going to eat," said Ed Felchner, vice president of marketing at Acuity Insurance.

The state commissioner of insurance said the measures are a protection for consumers, even if they don't feel protected.

"Personally, I think it's good that people have insurance but it's just this has affected us more dramatically than it's intended to," said Schneider.

Residents might want to check their auto insurance policy, to see if they're in line with the current minimums that went into effect Nov. 1. Coverage needs to be $15,000 for property damage, $25,000/$50,000 for bodily injury, and $100,000/$300,000 for underinsured and uninsured liability.

The Democratic chair of the committee said this Republican bill will not get a vote and the hearing Tuesday was just for informational purposes. But there have been some discussions of amendments that could move it forward.