Senate committee reduces scope of insurance bill In wake of governor's cuts, group weakens reform bid

March 16, 1996|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,SUN STAFF

One day after the Glendening administration dramatically scaled back its proposal to curb car insurance costs, a Senate committee decided to weaken the measure far more.

The Judicial Proceedings Committee voted unanimously yesterday to strip the bill of all but its most innocuous provisions a ban on "runners" who solicit accident victims for doctors and lawyers, and a requirement that cases of insurance fraud be reported to professional licensing boards.

While those provisions have been touted as helpful in the fight against insurance fraud, they are not expected to reduce car insurance premiums.

"Obviously, we're disappointed the committee didn't go further," said Steven B. Larsen, a legislative aide to Gov. Parris N. Glendening. "It's an important step, but a small step."

The committee's action is not the final word on the legislation in the Senate. The Finance Committee must also review the bill and could decide to restore other components of the original proposal.

But the decision does substantially lessen the chances that Maryland drivers will see anything close to the 15 percent drop in insurance rates once promised by the governor's s proposal.

Legislators said it also demonstrates the power of the groups that opposed the proposal: insurance companies, lawyers and health care providers.

"There was such strong opposition from all corners, I'm surprised we brought the bill out at all," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, an Anne Arundel Democrat. "I guess the runners were the only ones who didn't have a lobbyist."

The original legislation, developed after a yearlong study by a 17-member gubernatorial commission, would have taken such controversial steps as requiring insurance companies to lower their rates and denying accident victims the ability to be compensated by multiple sources for the same injury. It also would have limited benefits to victims who suffer strains or sprains.

Recognizing that the bill faced strong opposition in the General Assembly, administration officials agreed Thursday to delete those provisions. But they still sought to save drivers money by allowing them to carry less insurance.

By making certain types of insurance optional, some city drivers could save up to $200 annually on premiums, the administration estimated. Mr. Larsen said he hoped that the Finance Committee would put that option back in the legislation.

Pub Date: 3/16/96

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