State of New Jersey
Office of the Governor



CONTACT: Micah Rasmussen
DATE: April 23, 2003
PHONE: 609-777-2600

Governor Creates Task Force on Urban Area Insurance
Panel to Examine Availability, Affordability and Customer Service In Both Individual and Commercial Markets

(IRVINGTON) – Recognizing that urban consumers have long faced barriers when looking for insurance, Governor James E. McGreevey and Banking and Insurance Commissioner Holly C. Bakke today created the Task Force on Urban Area Insurance.

“In New Jersey’s cities, buying insurance is often much easier said than done,” Governor McGreevey said. “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, will gather data and advise the Division of Insurance on a range of issues, all concerning the availability and cost of insurance in New Jersey’s urban centers.

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

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.

“Our auto reform plan speaks to the entire New Jersey market, but drivers in urban areas face unique challenges in obtaining not only auto insurance but other types of insurance as well,” Governor McGreevey said.

“As Senator Rice noted during our discussions, the auto insurance crisis is not a new phenomenon for those who live and work in New Jersey’s cities,” Commissioner Bakke said. “Beyond auto insurance, other products, such as health insurance, homeowners’ insurance and liability coverage for small businesses, can be difficult to find or afford.”

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. 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.”

Auto insurance will not be the only product discussed. The task force will also explore factors that can make other types of coverage, such as health insurance or medical malpractice coverage, difficult to find or afford.

A chief role of this panel will be to gather information that the Department has not gathered in the past, Commissioner Bakke said. “The data will help guide discussions of what areas we must address, and how we should address them.”

According to the order, the panel will:

· Identify those factors related to insurance coverage that are specific to urban settings or more prevalent there;

· Gather data on insurance in cities, such as the number of agents and quality of customer service;

· Develop ways to improve market conditions both for individuals and for small businesses in New Jersey’s cities.

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. Assistant Director Thornton will focus on problems in commercial lines, such as business liability coverage, while Special Deputy Torres will focus on better delivery systems for personal lines, such as auto coverage.

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