News Release

Commissioner Holly C. Bakke

For Immediate Release:   May 7, 2003

For Further Information::  Mary Caffrey or
Ellen Lovejoy - (609) 292-5064


NEWARK, N.J. - Banking and Insurance Commissioner Holly C. Bakke today toured the New Jersey Trauma Center at University Hospital to learn more about the importance of auto insurance coverage to the state's system of trauma care, and to highlight the need for Governor McGreevey's proposed "Dollar-a-Day" policy.

"New Jersey's auto insurance system requires that all drivers have at least $15,000 worth of medical coverage," Bakke said. "That requirement has ensured a reliable source of funding for the state's trauma system, making it one of the best in the country. A person involved in an automobile accident in New Jersey is never more than 30 minutes away from first-rate emergency care."

Bakke and Rolando Torres Jr., Special Deputy Commissioner for Auto Insurance Issues, met with Dr. David Livingston, F.A.C.S., director of the New Jersey Trauma Center, to hear firsthand how the proposed Dollar-a-Day policy will complement existing medical coverage offered in auto insurance policies.

Until now, impoverished drivers who are uninsured for financial reasons have not contributed to the trauma system, even though they would get medical care if they were in an accident. "Through Dollar-a-Day, we aim to change that," said Special Deputy Commissioner Torres, who helped develop the policy.

Dollar-a-Day would provide $15,000 worth of emergency room care, with coverage limits up to $250,000 for catastrophic injuries, as well as other rights that policyholders would otherwise not have if they were uninsured. Medicaid-eligible drivers would be legal for $365 a year, and emergency rooms that treat high numbers of low-income drivers would gain a reliable funding source.

"Right now, Medicaid-eligible patients who show up in the emergency room are treated solely at taxpayer expense," Torres said. "Dollar-a-Day means that the first $15,000 of routine emergency care will be funded by the insurance system. Drivers in poverty can be on the road legally, and for the first time they will be doing their part to help fund the system that takes care of us all."

Bakke said the Dollar-a-Day proposal, aimed at reducing the number of uninsured drivers on New Jersey's roads, is just one of the many important consumer features contained in S-63/A-2625, the Governor's auto insurance reform legislation. The Senate passed the reform package in March, and it cleared the Assembly Banking and Insurance Committee Monday.

The bill now heads to the Assembly floor. "I am anxious to start implementing this landmark legislation, which will improve the New Jersey auto insurance market, fight fraud, expand consumer protections and get thousands of drivers into the ranks of the insured," Commissioner Bakke said. "An insurance system that offers more choices will ultimately put downward pressures on rates."