United Policyholders is a voice for insurance consumers when state and federal lawmakers are considering laws that impact them.  We work to defend and advance laws that protect the reasonable expectations of insurance buyers. We oppose insurance lobbyists’ efforts to weaken consumer protections.  We fight for the rights of individuals and businesses to get the full value of the insurance policies they pay for and rely on.  Some examples are below. Testimony we provide at hearings is not reflected here.

  • 2023

    UP supported the original version of a bill that would protect California consumers from sales pitches to buy annuity and life insurance products that are not in their best interests because they’re highly unlikely to provide the promised benefits.  Insurer lobbyists succeeded in watering down the bill’s protections, UP and our consumer advocate allies worked to restore value to the measure.

    Letters of Opposition sent to the Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance regarding HB489 & HB569

  • 2022

    California SB 1320 – Letter of Opposition. The language in the proposed amendments are harmful to life insurance policyholders and their families.  They would impose a causation requirement on consumers  and incentivize insurers to disregard the law because it will be nearly impossible for consumers to prove causation. (April 13, 2022)

    Colorado HB22-1111 Insurance Coverage For Loss Declared Fire Disaster. UP strongly supports this bill and has provided in-person (virtual) testimony.

    *June 2022 UPdate* Advocacy Win!  New Rights for Colorado Insurance Consumers

    California State Senate Hearing on Wildfire Resilience: Innovation in Mitigation | Final Background | Agenda

  • 2021

    Letter of Support for California Senate Bill 11

    Senate Bill 11 was designed to expand the FAIR Plan to allow farmers, vintners and ranchers keep their real property assets insured and protected in an era where some are having trouble finding that insurance in the private market. With this clarification, the FAIR Plan will be clearly authorized to insure farm buildings such as barns, farmhouses and silos.


    Letter of Support for Disaster Mitigation and Tax Parity Act (S. 2432 / H.R. 4675)

    UP supports the Disaster Mitigation and Tax Parity Act that will end the federal income tax disparity on state mitigation grants. This legislation will incentivize individuals to seek out state grants and will encourage state-based mitigation and resiliency programs. It is in the best interests of our nation that we engage property owners to the fullest extent possible in helping individuals and communities protect themselves from natural disasters. 

    Improving Disaster Recovery Through Insurance Reform Legislation

    UP/Oregon Rep. Marsh joint presentation at the National Council of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) 2021 summer meeting.

    UP strongly opposes Florida bills SB 76 and the companion HB 305.  They will cause economic harm to Florida property owners and the P/C marketplace. If enacted, these bills will aggravate delays and problems that hinder the flow of insurance funds for repairs, reduce property values and slow economic recovery after the disasters that routinely impact the state.

  • 2020

    UP supports a bill that would require residential property policies to include a minimum amount of code upgrade coverage; AB 2436 will require a minimum of 10% of dwelling policy limits coverage for code upgrades as an additional coverage, not included in the amount of Coverage A. This is a great effort to close an unnecessary and often unknown coverage gap.

    UP opposes a pair of companion bills AB 2167 and SB 292 along with the California Department of Insurance, all major consumer groups, several cities and elected officials. These bills are highly likely to make the current home insurance availability/affordability crisis worse, not better. See: https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/west/2020/06/09/571546.htm/?comments#comment-5165535, UP’s July 31, 2020 updated opposition letter on AB 2167, UP’s August 14, 2020 updated opposition letter on AB 2167, UP’s August 14, 2020 updated opposition letter on SB 292, this Los Angeles Times editorial from June 19, 2020, this Los Angeles Times Editorial from August 14, 2020, and this Sacramento Bee article from August 11, 2020.

    UP proposes three new laws in California; Two aimed at restoring affordable and available insurance options to home and business owners in rural and brush areas. One that will reduce confusion and disputes related to caps on benefits that are hidden in insurance fine print.

    UP supports a bill that would codify the voluntary claim handling procedures and would prohibit the land value deduction; UP supports SB 872 that would require, in a state of emergency, an insurer to: advance four months of rent at the start of the claim; advance at least 25% of contents coverage in a total loss; provide for policy payment grace periods; reduce personal property inventory requirements; provide a fair market value option in lieu of incurred rent expenses option; prohibit an insurer from deducting the value of land at the new location if an insured decides to purchase an already built house at a new location; and more. For more on SB 872, see the senate insurance analysis and the senate floor analyses. UPDATE: See UP’s Request for Signature for SB 872. In its most recent form, SB 872 still codifies most of the voluntary claim handling procedures mentioned above, plus added protections for insureds whose homes are uninhabitable or inaccessible due to Civil Authority orders. However, the current version of the bill no longer requires an advance of 25% for contents or a fair market value option.

    UP supports a bill that would facilitate wildfire risk reduction and help restore a competitive home insurance marketplace in California; AB 2367 will be a catalyst to further the ideas UP has been advocating via WRAPP (Wildfire Risk Reduction and Asset Protection Project) for years. This is the start of a process that involves establishing offcially sanctioned risk reduction standards, an inspection and certification program, and an insurance reward system for those who obtain certification.

  • 2019
  • 2018

    UP asks CA Governor to sign bill to extend non-renewal protections to all residents of disaster areas

    Our organization helped draft this legislation to address shrinking availability and affordability of home insurance in and near wildfire-impacted regions throughout California, and although it went through substantial amendments during the legislative process, we urge enactment. Under existing law, Cal. Ins. Code § 675.1, a home insurer must offer the owner of a primary residence that has been destroyed in a Governor-declared State of Emergency one additional term when their policy comes up for renewal after the loss. This right was codified because people who’d lost homes in wildfires were being victimized by patterns of non-renewals that were compounding their recovery challenges and making it hard for their communities to rebound. It is not unduly burdensome on insurers, and has given traumatized loss victims one less thing to worry about. SB 824 will extend that right to neighboring homeowners in the region.

    Between 2015-2016, the number of policy non-renewals went from 8,796 to 10,151 across the state. The substantial risk of wildfire faced by California homeowners calls for greater protections in the aftermath of a state of emergency. As California recovers from a devastating wildfire season, it is more apparent than ever that insurance protection is the difference between recovery and ruin. SB-824 will prevent insurers from reflexively canceling or not renewing policies en masse after disasters. SB 824 also gives the California Insurance Commissioner a nominal amount of additional, appropriate authority to monitor home insurance non-renewals and help maintain options for consumers and a robust competitive marketplace for home insurance.

    UP supports the California Wildfire Survivor Recovery Blueprint Legislative Package

    UP largely supports, with one notable exception, the package of bills advanced in the wake of the devastating wildfires in October and December of 2017. The bill package addresses coverage for additional expenses, requires waivers of personal property inventories, aims to curb underinsurance, clarifies the right to buy instead of rebuild and other California-specific rights, and extends important timelines and deadlines for wildfire survivors. The bill package seeks, above all else, to streamline the claims process and solve systemic, recurring issues that hinder survivors on the road to recovery.

    UP supports measures to curb non-renewals and stabilize the homeowner’s insurance market in California.

    Due to increasing concerns about the availability and affordability of homeowner’s insurance in California, particularly in Wildland Urban Interface or WUI zones and rural areas, UP helped draft legislation that would help to prevent non-renewals, give the Department of Insurance more tools to examine insurer underwriting, and encourage insurers to provide mitigation discounts to homeowners who harden their homes and maintain defensible space. Climate change and technological changes in underwriting (e.g., the use of predictive wildfire models) are driving changes in the market. UP urged lawmakers to take action before the problem becomes more severe as the admitted market contracts. For more information, see:

    WRAP: The Wildfire Risk Reduction and Asset Protection Project

    Wildfire Risk Reduction and Insurability

    UP Petitions for CA Wildfire Insurance Investigation

    UP supports greater consumer protections for Florida hurricane survivors

    UP helped author a bill that would enhance consumer protections for hurricane survivors in Florida. Specifically, SB 1652 would prohibit an insurer from denying a claim arising from a hurricane state of emergency if the insurer fails to inspect the property within 45 days; prohibit an insurer from requiring a proof of loss, unless the insurer provides written notice and allows at least 60 days for completion; require that insurers provide the Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights [Fla. Stat. 627.7142] when a claim is made under a state of emergency; amend the Fla. Stat. 627.7142] to prohibit an insurer from canceling or non-renewing a policy until 90 days have passed since the property was repaired; and extend the operative time of cancellations or non-renewals taking effect during a hurricane state of emergency to 72 hours after the last hurricane warning or watch.

  • 2017

    UP supports mandatory disclosure of un/underinsured motorist coverage in New York

    A8519A/S5644B requires automobile insurers to offer their consumers un/underinsured motorist coverage at the same level as their auto liability insurance coverage, but allows the consumer to make the informed choice of selecting less coverage. The written waiver proves that the consumer has been notified of the impact of declining coverage that would protect the consumer and the consumer’s loved ones. This commonsense bill will help fill a frequently-occurring gap in insurance policies while maintaining informed consumer choice. For a very low premium, SUM insurance covers drivers and their loved ones in the event of an accident with an underinsured, uninsured or hit-and-run driver. While many drivers act responsibly by purchasing more auto liability insurance than required by statute – thereby taking an extra step to protect others – they do not realize that to protect themselves they must also increase the SUM limits on their policy.

    Reauthorizing and reforming the National Flood Insurance Program – Guiding Principles

    The National Flood Insurance Program serves the essential function of making it feasible for property owners to buy economic protection so that in the event of a flood, the owner can repair/restore the asset. While there are alternative flood insurance options in the private market that are available to some property owners in some regions, the NFIP will remain the only option for a substantial number of U.S. households in flood risk zones for the foreseeable future. UP released a document that outlines priorities for increasing resiliency and controlling premium costs through greater participation, including reforms to the appeals process, claims handling standards, remedies for breach of contract, and the role of private insurers and engineers in adjusting losses. The NFIP expires on September 30, 2017.

    UP supports greater connectivity for Californians in the wake of disasters

    SB 649 would enable a streamlined process for placement of small cell towers which are needed to ensure that in the wake of a disaster, Californians are connected to their loved ones and emergency personnel.

    UP supports renewed efforts to strengthen New York law in favor of policyholders

    S242 will give New Yorkers who buy property insurance the ability to hold insurers to their protection promises, using the legal system if need be. This legislative proposal will bring New York in line with the vast majority of states.  New York is one of the few states that does not allow a policyholder to bring an action to enforce their right to collect benefits owed under an insurance contract or recover attorney fees even where they legally prove an insurer has wrongfully withheld benefits owed under that contract.

    UP supports legislation that would give California policyholders or their legal representatives the ability to locate insurance policies for wildfire losses

    After a wildfire, important documents such as the insurance policy on the home are lost. In the worst cases, the policyholder perishes as a result of the fire or shortly thereafter. In those cases, it is important that policyholders or their legal representatives be able to secure a copy of the insurance policy on the damaged or destroyed home. California law provides that a policyholder may request and receive a copy of the policy following a total loss caused by a disaster. When the identity of the insurance company is unknown, however, policyholders or their legal representatives need a mechanism for determining who has provided the coverage. This legislation would proscribe a procedure whereby a policyholder or their legal representative would be able to utilize the Department of Insurance to assist with the process, in cooperation with insurers.

    UP opposes legislation that would disincentivize Texas insurers from promptly and fairly paying claims

    In response to a misperception that property insurance claims and lawsuits are on the rise in Texas, the insurance industry and their allies in the Texas legislature have revived a bill that would make it harder to hold an insurer accountable if they fail to adequately investigate and pay claims to homeowners and businesses. The bill is ostensibly designed to curb “abusive hail lawsuits” but in effect it would eviscerate Texas’s prompt payment law by allowing for a cure period and removing pre-judgment interest. A similar bill was defeated two years ago due to opposition from consumer advocates and Texas businesses See also: Texas Businesses Line Up Against Lt. Governor’s High-Priority Insurance BillTexas Senate Bill 10 Would Adversely Affect All Insureds; and Legislature Restricts Rights of Insurance Policyholders

    UP supports efforts in Montana to curb contractor fraud following a disaster

    Storm chasing contractors often entice disaster victims into signing contracts for repairs immediately following a loss, when the homeowner is at their most vulnerable. In some cases, unlicensed contractors show up in a disaster area and take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners. UP supports legislation that requires contractors who solicit business from disaster victims to disclose whether they are licensed, their license number, and prohibit them from using another contractor’s license. Contractors should also be prohibited from acting as an unlicensed public adjuster and would be required to prepare a detailed estimate of the work to be performed, must inform the consumer that they are responsible by any repairs not covered by insurance, and that they have the right to cancel the contract within 5 days, all important consumer protections.

    UP opposes limitations on contingency fees and available recoveries for insurance disputes in Arkansas

    An individual or business consumer’s ability to hold an insurance company accountable for failing to meet their indemnification or defense obligations is an essential function of the civil justice system. By leveling the playing field between powerful insurance companies and their customers, the civil justice system also helps maintain the critical balance between insurers’ conflicting obligations to profit-oriented shareholders versus to customers who file claims and drain profits. It is already hard for Arkansas property and business owners to find a good lawyer willing to risk working on a contingent fee basis to take on a well-funded insurer defendant. By placing arbitrary restrictions on the type of recovery available to victims of unfair insurance practices, it will become more uneconomic for qualified counsel to undertake to represent small businesses and individuals.

    UP supports legislation in Montana that would prohibit insurers from penalizing policyholders for zero-dollar claims

    When a policyholder inquires about coverage or a claim, they reasonably do not expect their insurance company to raise their premium or non-renew their policy, particularly where the inquiry or claim does not result in any payment. SB 58 is a sound approach to combating a form of “use it and lose it” – where a policyholder is penalized for simply using their insurance. UP supports efforts to curb this practice and recently released a “use it and lose it” special report as part of the Essential Protections for Policyholders project in cooperation with Jay Feinman at the Rutgers Law School Center for Risk and Responsibility. The lead author of the bill used UP/Rutgers research to support the bill.

    SB 58 was signed into law by Governor Bullock on April 10, 2017. 

  • 2016

    UP supports federal legislation to protect consumers from being unfairly penalized due to disputed medical debt

    Consumers with low credit and insurance scores pay higher rates for policies and when borrowing money. Low credit scores worsen people’s financial condition and lead to economic spiraling-down for households. This bill gives a fair window of opportunity for medical debt disputes to be resolved before they get attributed to a consumer, reported, and factored into their credit/insurance score. In today’s complex health services and insurance marketplace, disputes over coverage and responsibility for payment for medical care and devices are extremely common and often involve no fault by the patient/consumer.

    UP testified before the California Senate Insurance Committee on wildfire insurance availability and affordability

    Following the 2015 Valley and Butte fires in which UP was heavily involved in recovery operations, Executive Director Amy Bach headed to the California State Senate to testify on decreasing availability and affordability of home insurance in wildfire-prone areas. Catastrophic events and the advent of CAT-modeling have created a situation where insurers are increasingly risk-averse in areas where consumers need insurance most. While those who lost their home in the recent fires enjoy the protection of a California Insurance Code provision that requires insurers to renew insurance at least one policy period following a declared disaster, many of their unaffected or partially affected neighbors are already receiving cancelation notices and cannot find new coverage. UP presented a lawmakers with an on-the-ground perspective of the home insurance market and identified a number of possible solutions.

    UP supports two measures in Hawaii that will greatly benefit insurance consumers

    UP weighed in to support H.B. 1989 (S.B. 3051) (link above) and H.B. 1990 (S.B. 3064), two measures that update Hawaii’s fair claims rules and clarify the appraisal process, respectively. H.B. 1989 imposes strict time deadlines on insurer’s communications with their insureds, sets timelines for paying the undisputed portion of the claim, among other important changes. UP drafted the language in H.B. 1989 in consultation with a volunteer from the Aloha state. H.B. 1990 sets neutrality and competency standards for “appraisers” and “umpires” which will help policyholders more clearly understand the appraisal process, the role and qualifications of each professional involved, and how to use the process to effectively to overcome a claim dispute.

    UP opposes allowing unlicensed independent adjusters to adjust claims in Arizona

    UP opposed HB 2342, a measure that would allow insurance companies in Arizona to contract with out-of-state adjusters to adjust catastrophic losses without an Arizona adjuster license. UP opposed the measure because it would be harmful to consumers to allow insurance companies to contract with adjusters who are unfamiliar with Arizona’s claims handling rules. While the need to contract with out-of-state adjusters may be legitimate when a catastrophic event exceeds an insurer’s in-state capacity, out-of-state adjusters should still be trained on state rules. Many states deal with this issue through emergency licensing procedures rather than through binding statutory authorization.

    UP supports scope of loss being subject to the appraisal process in Colorado

    UP supports draft legislation that will establish clear rules for the fair, prompt and economic resolution of insurance claim disputes via appraisal. The full scope of a claimed loss (i.e. the full extent of the damage) should be subject to appraisal, regardless of whether the insurer is contesting coverage for a portion of that claimed loss. An appraisal that doesn’t resolve the full scope/extent of claimed damage is generally a waste of time. Coverage disputes are not subject to appraisal and are the province of courts. Colorado should make appraisals informal, meaning no formal discovery shall be conducted, including depositions, interrogatories, requests for admission, or other forms of formal civil discovery, no formal rules of evidence shall be applied, and no court reporter shall be used in the proceedings.” And, we strongly support requiring appraisal Umpires to disclose all matters in which they’ve been retained as party appraisers and whether they were retained by the policyholder or insurer.

    UP supports SB 488 – regulating public insurance adjusters in California

    UP supported a measure in the California that regulates the conduct of public insurance adjusters in California. SB 488 would bring California in line with the model legislation promulgated by the NAIC, by requiring minimum levels of education, examination, and background checks. In addition, SB 488 prohibits public adjusters from soliciting disaster victims where the emergency is still underway, emergency responders are still present, or an evacuation order remains in effect. SB 488 also clarifies that a public adjuster may not receive a portion of claim payments made before the public adjuster enters into a contract with the policyholder.

  • 2015

    UP opposes H.R. 1927 – The [unfair] Class Action Litigation Act of 2015

    UP strongly supports insureds having the ability to hold insurers accountable for engaging in unfair claim practices and thus must oppose H.R.1927. Class action litigation has been successful in exposing widespread claim mishandling, e.g., claim denials and “low-balling” by insurers and helped to remedy and compensate victims through “pattern and practice” class action litigation. Because every insurance claim is unique, and the quantum of injury may differ, H.R. 1927 would effectively end insurance class action lawsuits and deny justice to many insureds by requiring class members to show the same type and extent of injury, an extraordinary procedural burden.

    An Act relative to greater fairness in insurance

    This bill prohibits discretionary clauses in annuity products, life, health, accident, long term care and disability insurance policies.  Discretionary clauses have great legal significance because they serve to nullify bargained-for contract provisions, they create an illusory contract, and they defeat insureds reasonable expectations of coverage.  They place an unfair burden on insureds and insurers use them as a legal shield to escape responsibility for denying covered claims. This bill would bring Massachusetts in line with Texas, California and other states that prohibit insurers from engaging in the unfair practice of inserting language in their products that give themselves authority to override a treating doctor’s views and interpret their own policy terms as to whether or not an insured is entitled to benefits.

    UP supports three legislative measures in New York that will give businesses and individuals the ability to legally enforce their contractual right to policy benefits after a disaster.

    S4049A (Lanza) and Assembly companion bill A257 (Weinstein) and an alternative bill – S29A (DeFrancisco), will give New Yorkers who buy property insurance the ability to hold insurers to their protection promises, using the legal system if need be.  These pending legislative proposals will bring New York in line with the vast majority of states.  New York is one of the few states that do not allow a policyholder to bring an action to enforce their right to collect benefits owed under an insurance contract or recover attorney fees even where they legally prove an insurer has wrongfully withheld benefits owed under that contract. S29A has the added benefit of making insurance appraisals more viable as a fair and inexpensive way of resolving disputes over the cost/value of damage and repairs.

    UP weighs in on two consumer-oriented bills related to earthquake insurance in California

    AB 1429 (Chiu) is a bill that provides seismic retrofitting incentives for owners of apartment buildings with low-income tenants and AB 1440 (Nazarian), is a bill that provides seismic retrofitting incentives for single-family homes and small buildings. Earthquakes are a serious and constant threat in California and after a disaster, insurance funds are typically the number one source of aid that helps people make repairs or relocate. Incentives for property owners to purchase earthquake insurance encourage resilience. Currently only 12% of California homeowners carry earthquake insurance.

    UP weighs in to oppose SB 1628 – a legislative effort in Texas to undermine the Unfair Claims regulations

    UP opposes SB 1628, a bill which seeks to remove independent contractors, including engineering firms and independent adjusters from the definition of “person” in the Unfair Claims regulations. By doing so, insurers would effectively be insulated from bad faith conduct of their vendors. It is bad public policy to remove independent contractors from claims handling protections, especially in light of the engineering scandals related to Superstorm Sandy insurance claims.

    UP testifies before the California Senate Insurance Committee on Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

    UP, along with the Department of Insurance, other consumer advocates, and industry lobbyists, testified before the Senate Insurance Committee on the issue of whether California’s Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) laws serve the interests of consumers. UP’s testimony concluded that because of complicated requirements pertaining to set-offs and exhaustion, consumers are not getting the benefit of the bargain when they purchase UM/UIM coverage.

  • 2014

    UP asks the Colorado Attorney General to look into unfair claims handling practices and the use of biased experts

    UP asked the Colorado Attorney General to look into unfair claims handling practices and the use of biased experts by insurers for partial-loss and smoke damage victims. UP has collected many stories and accounts of the difficulties policyholders face when an insurer’s “captive experts” contradict the findings of an insured’s hired expert.

    UP asks FEMA to retroactively extend the NFIP Proof of Loss Deadline for Colorado Flood Victims

    As part of UP’s ongoing work in Colorado, UP sent a letter to FEMA Associate Administrator David Miller and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives from Colorado asking for a retroactive National Flood Insurance Program Standard Flood Insurance Policy Proof of Loss deadline extension for victims of the 2013 flood event. Read FEMA’s response here.

    UP weighs in to support the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act)

    On the anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, UP sent letters to the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services urging their continued support for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    UP weighs in for consumer protection and regulation of insurance coverage for Transportation Network Carriers (e.g. Uber X, Lyft) in California

    UP supported California lawmaker Susan Bonilla’s Assembly bill 2293 to regulate the legally required minimum amount of insurance that Transportation Network Carriers (“TNC”) and their drivers must carry. The original version of AB 2293 provided that a TNC’s commercial liability policy would be the sole policy applicable to accidents involving a TNC driver during all periods of operation (regardless of whether the driver was carrying a passenger or not) and required the TNC to carry a minimum amount of protection for its drivers at all times.  A legislative compromise was reached that lowered the amount of mandatory coverage and led to the removal of support by UP and other consumer advocates who want TNCs and their drivers to carry appropriate insurance to protect the public, pedestrians and riders. However, the compromise is better than the status quo. Read the full text of the bill here. Read UP’s letter in support of AB 2293, as amended August 20, 2014.

    UP Executive Director Amy Bach called to testify on catastrophic risk before the California State Senate Insurance Committee

    On May 14, 2014, UP Executive Director Amy Bach testified before the California Senate Insurance Committee on catastrophic risk and the state of the homeowner’s insurance marketplace. Bach was joined by representatives from the California Earthquake Authority, the RAND Corporation, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Resiliency Council, and insurance industry trade groups to discuss the availability, affordability, and quality of earthquake, flood, and fire insurance in California. Bach also referenced UP’s June 2013 comments to the Federal Insurance Commissioner regarding the Study on Natural Catastrophes and Insurance. Read a letter from Senate Insurance Committee Chair William Monning to UP Executive Director Amy Bach.

    UP supports a “Clarity Bill” for Louisiana Policyholders

    UP submitted a letter to the Louisiana House Insurance Committee urging support for HB 909: The Homeowners Property Insurance Clarity Act. HB 909 will require insurers operating in Louisiana to disclose paid losses, policies written, and premiums to the Insurance Commissioner. As a result, Louisiana consumers will have access to crucial information on the homeowners insurance marketplace, much like consumers in Alabama and California do through similar “Clarity” laws. Read the text of the bill here.

    UP supports three important pro-policyholder bills in New York

    • New Yorkers deserve the right to hold insurers fully accountable for bad faith claim handling
      UP submitted a detailed letter supporting New York legislators’ efforts to strengthen consumer rights by making it feasible to hold an insurance company fully accountable in court for acting in bad faith. Under SB 2544/AB 3305, policyholders will have the right to enforce the New York Insurance Code and Unfair Claims Practices regulations that prohibit bad faith claim handling.  By allowing for the recovery of attorney’s fees in successful bad faith cases based on violations of that Code and those regulations, the Senate and Assembly versions of this bill will give consumers an important remedy that is available in many states but not New York.  The need for this overdue reform was became crystal clear in Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath.  Read the text of the bill here.
    • Codify the “Notice-Prejudice” rule in NY
      UP supports New York legislators’ efforts to codify the “notice-prejudice” rule for insurers operating in the state. Under SB 2315/AB 453, an insurer must show that a policyholder’s delay in filing an insurance claim substantially prejudiced the interests of the insurer in order to deny coverage. The “notice-prejudice” rule is deeply embedded in the common law and protects policyholders from procedural forfeiture of coverage. Note: UP filed a brief on this issue in Colorado recently. Read the text of the bill here.
    • Improve court-ordered appraisals in NY
      UP supports New York legislators’ efforts to broaden the scope of court-ordered appraisals to include the full extent of the damage. Under SB 4756/AB 9346, policyholders may compel insurers to participate in appraisals that include the full extent of damage or loss, in addition to coverage disputes. NY Courts have taken the narrow view that extent of loss or damage is beyond the scope of court-ordered appraisal. This reform serves judicial economy by preventing unnecessary litigation. Read the text of the bill here. Read UP’s letter to Governor Cuomo urging his signature upon passage here.  The bill is now law.

    Update the mandatory offer re: EQ insurance in CA

    UP supports AB 2064 which would update and improve the delivery of information to California homeowners and renters about earthquake insurance options.  The fact that nearly 90% of Californian homes are not financially protected against the risk of an earthquake is a looming crisis of serious proportions. We know firsthand that insurance is the number one resource that makes it possible for people to repair and rebuild after disasters. The max individual assistance grant FEMA issues is $32k to income-qualified recipients.  Charitable help with construction costs is in high demand and short supply.  We want people to be properly insured and make buying decisions on the basis of accurate information about their options and in their own best financial interests. That is not currently happening with regard to earthquake insurance in the state of California.  People need to be more effectively reminded and educated about their earthquake options and make informed decisions not based on outdated information and rumors.

    UPdate: on 9/18/14 Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 2064 into law. The final bill and corresponding mandatory offer language reflects input from UP and other stakeholders. Read the press release from the California Earthquake Authority here.

    Opposing repeal of an elected regulator in WA State

    This bill would effect a radical change in oversight of the insurance industry in the State of Washington.  Insurance is a necessity woven into the fabric of our modern economy. A long line of court decisions characterize the business of insurance as being affected with the public interest, or “quasi-public” in nature, like a utility. Washington State residents – and the insurance industry – need a regulator who is fully accountable to the electorate. Replacing the Office of Insurance Commissioner with an un-elected Insurance Board would jeopardize the agency’s neutrality and effectiveness and put the public interest at risk.  The elected Insurance Commissioner is necessary to responsibly balance the interests of consumers and industry, without undue political influence. Letter from NAIC Consumer Representatives in opposition to WA bill S6458

  • 2013

    An Act relative to greater fairness in insurance

    This bill prohibits discretionary clauses in annuity products, life, health, accident, long term care and disability insurance policies.  Discretionary clauses have great legal significance because they serve to nullify bargained-for contract provisions, they create an illusory contract, and they defeat insureds reasonable expectations of coverage.  They place an unfair burden on insureds and insurers use them as a legal shield to escape responsibility for denying covered claims. This bill would bring Massachusetts in line with Texas, California and other states that prohibit insurers from engaging in the unfair practice of inserting language in their products that give themselves authority to override a treating doctor’s views and interpret their own policy terms as to whether or not an insured is entitled to benefits.

    Increased regulation of lender placed flood insurance is imperative

    UP, Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Economic Justice prepared and submitted testimony to United States Senator Jeff Merkley on the subject of force-placed (also called lender placed “lpi”) flood insurance. Congressional legislation known as “Biggert-Waters 2012” made sweeping reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program.  The reforms included the elimination of rate subsidies and a ceiling on penalties against banks that fail to require borrowers to purchase flood insurance for flood zoned properties.  The UP/CEJ/CFA testimony alerts lawmakers to the acute financial burdens BW12 is placing on low income homeowners and calls for increased regulation and reforms to reign in excessive force-placed flood insurance premiums and keep as many people as possible insured in the voluntary market.

    No immunity simply for relying on lack of action by a regulator

    If this bill were to become law, insurers would gain an unfair advantage over consumers, as would many other industries.  Our particular concern is that if this measure were to become law, insurance companies would no doubt pounce on it to defeat consumer claims related to unfair policy language – claiming the language had been approved by the California Department of Insurance, (CDI) when in fact all the agency did was permit the sale of the policy.

    Health Care Coverage Notifications

    This bill will require health insurers to notify both consumers and regulators know before a health plan terminates a contract with a provider or provider network. This legislation will help consumers make sound decisions about the “in-network” health care they can receive as well as avoid unnecessary “out-of-network” bills that cause financial hardships. And it will give the California Department of Insurance information that it needs in order to oversee a healthy marketplace and protect consumers.

    Insurance: Notices: Electronic Transmission

    There are many technological reasons why people don’t receive emails that get sent to them; spam blockers, junk mail filters, connection and server problems.  There remain a significant risk that people will fail to receive notices related to financial protection for their biggest asset: their home.  Since United Policyholders opposition letter, this bill was amended to require consumers to specifically “opt-in” to electronic notices.

    “Non-Offset” Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/IUM Coverage)

    This bill will allow California auto insurance companies to offer consumers the option of increasing their protection against underinsured drivers by offering non-offset UM/UIM coverage.  This bill does not mandate that insurers sell this option.  It will simply provide consumers who invest in protecting themselves by buying UM/UIM coverage, and who want the full value of that investment, to buy their auto insurance from a company that offers a non-offset UM/UIM coverage option.

    New Jersey Consumer Protection Act

    This bill creates a much needed private right of action for policyholders and their assignees to bring civil claims against their insurance companies for isolated instances of bad faith conduct and violations of the New Jersey’s unfair claims settlement practices act.  New Jersey policyholders need stronger statutory protection that will effectively deter bad practices and allow realistic redress for victims of unfair claims handling.

    Regulating Public Adjusters Fees in New Jersey following Superstorm Sandy

    In Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath, there are many people who need claim and recovery help. There are a good number of experienced and reputable public adjusters who stand ready and willing to provide that help for reasonable fees ranging from 5-12%. Yet our organization has received emails and questions from New Jersey residents that reference fees as high as 40% being charged to Sandy victims on straightforward property damage claims.  We’d all like to see the forces of free market competition prevent opportunistic price gouging after disasters. But it’s clear that for many reasons, including the fact that Sandy left so many people – particularly the elderly and single parents of young children – in an emotionally and financially fragile and vulnerable state – competition alone is not doing the job. A fee cap that would take effect immediately after being signed by New Jersey’s Governor is in order.

    Concerning Additional Protections for Purchasers of Homeowners Insurance Policies in Colorado

    United Policyholders communicated our conceptual support for this bill and suggested amendments to Representative Levy over a several year period.  In addition, UP also helped organize wildfire survivors and volunteers from Boulder, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins to testify at a recent hearing in Colorado’s State Capitol to educate lawmakers on the need for insurance reform.  Read United Policyholders Memo re: Homeowners Insurance Reform Legislation – Colorado House Bill 13-1225 This memo was submitted before the final bill was enacted into law.

  • 2012

    Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance

    This legislation requires that insurers offer their consumers SUM insurance at an appropriate level based on their other insurance decisions, but still allows the consumer the choice of selecting less coverage.  SUM insurance covers drivers and their loved ones in the event of an accident with an underinsured, uninsured or hit-and‐run driver. While many drivers act responsibly by purchasing more liability insurance than required by statute – thereby taking an extra step to protect others – they do not realize that to protect themselves they must also increase the SUM limits on their policy.  This common sense bill will help fill a common gap in insurance policies while maintaining consumer choice.

    Electronic Transmissions for Renewal Notices and Disclosure Forms

    This bill creates a significant risk that people will fail to receive important notices related to financial protection for their biggest asset: their home. There remain myriad technological reasons why people don’t receive emails that get sent to them; spam blockers, junk mail filters, connection and server problems. The bill can be amended to require that a consumer affirmatively select to receive notices from their insurer via email before that becomes the exclusive communication method. And, it should require insurers to implement email delivery receipt confirmation procedures, among other consumer protection amendments suggested by the California Department of Insurance.

    Contracts: Claims and Standards for Dispute Resolution

    This bill restores limited rights to consumers to join together to challenge unfair treatment by a large corporation and ensures consumers have a practical way to seek redress against fraud and other unfair corporate behavior.  This bill provides that any term in a contract of adhesion purporting to waive the right to join or consolidate claims, or to bring a claim as a representative member of a class or in a private attorney general capacity shall be deemed to lack the necessary consent to waive that right, and is void.

    Life Insurance and Annuities

    This bill erodes important consumer protections in California by exempting long-term care benefits provided through a life insurance or annuity product from all of the standards and rules in the Insurance Code.  Allowing long-term care benefits provided through a life insurance or annuity policy to avoid the requirements of that Chapter would leave consumers without those protections and allow companies to establish standards of their own choosing.

  • 2011

    Earthquake Insurance Affordability Act

    This measure will help avert a looming crisis by making earthquake insurance an affordable, viable option for California homeowners.  For more information visit the website: http://www.earthquakerecovery.com/

    Insurance: life: disability: discretionary clauses

    This bill pertains to life insurance, disability insurance and disability income protection policies. It prohibits insurers engaging in the unfair practice of inserting language in their products that give themselves authority to override a treating doctor’s views and interpret their own policy terms as to whether or not an insured is entitled to benefits.

    Life insurance: retained-asset account

    This bill pertains to life insurance policies that have a “retained asset account” feature.  This bill makes it so consumers must affirmatively choose to have life insurance benefits placed in a retained asset account. Absent that affirmative choice, benefits will be paid in the traditional lump sum manner to the beneficiary.

    Health care coverage: rate approval

    This bill would give California’s Insurance Commissioner authority to effectively regulate health insurance rates in our state. The recent enormous rate increases that have been announced by some insurers and HMOs and put into place by others are proof positive that the Commissioner needs additional tools to maintain order in the health insurance marketplace and protect individuals and businesses from excessive (or inadequate) rates.

    Annuity sales to seniors

    This bill would strengthen legal protections for California senior citizens with regard to sales of annuity products. Annuity sales fraud on seniors has been rampant in recent years. The products are complicated and sales representatives take advantage of aging consumers who chronically worry about having sufficient assets to cover their future living expenses. This bill makes straightforward, pragmatic improvements to California law that should decrease the number of unsuitable annuity products sold to seniors and make it easier for seniors to understand the terms of annuities.

  • 2010

    Insurance: life settlements

    As it now reads, this bill will undermine important legal protections for consumers – particularly seniors – related to life settlement products and sales. In addition, the bill interferes with the rulemaking process and detailed set of proposed regulations that was issued by the Department of Insurance

    Regulations: small businesses

    This bill will make it even easier for trade associations to block and delay important consumer protections that state agencies try to implement through the administrative law process. The effect will be to make it even more difficult for budget-challenged state agencies to protect the public. Trade associations have ample means under current state law to challenge regulations.

    Property insurance: residential disclosure

    This measure will shorten and simplify the California Residential Property Insurance Disclosure form that insurance carriers must periodically send to their California customers. The bill will make it more likely that property owners will read this form and get a clearer understanding of their insurance options and coverage.

    California Earthquake Authority: mitigation officer

    Creating the position of Chief Mitigation Officer to efficiently and effectively implement programs will help Californians mitigate their property against seismic risks. One of the CEA’s important statutory duties is to help California homeowners take steps to make their homes more resistant to quake damage. However, the Authority’s mitigation-related outreach and support activities have been uneven in recent years. This is largely because it has very limited staffing resources. Allowing the CEA to employ a Chief Mitigation Officer will help it do a better job of fulfilling this important statutory duty.

    Insurance: commissioner: powers and duties: complaints

    One of the most important functions of the California Department of Insurance is to protect consumers against unfair claims handling practices by the insurers under their regulatory jurisdiction. The Department is mandated under California law to fully investigate consumer complaints. Investigating consumer complaints is one of the key tools the Department uses to monitor the insurance marketplace and identify unlawful conduct by insurers. This bill will severely hinder the CDI’s ability to do its job and is fundamentally unsound. Limiting the CDI’s capacity to investigate consumer complaints is asking them to turn a blind eye to evidence uncovered during an investigation.

    Disability Reform

    This bill pertains to life insurance, disability insurance or disability income protection policies, and would prohibit insurers engaging in the unfair practice of inserting language in their products that give themselves authority to override a treating doctor’s views and interpret their own policy terms as to whether or not an insured is entitled to benefits.

    Catastrophe Obligation and Guarantee Act

    The Catastrophe Obligation Guarantee Act, will allow the CEA to manage this risk more efficiently. By allowing the CEA to substitute a portion of its high-cost reinsurance with an ability to borrow money in the private debt markets – after an event, and backed by a federal guarantee – the CEA will be able to lower consumer costs by approximately 35% – saving consumers nearly $1 billion over the next 5 years, and lower deductibles by at least 50% – making the insurance far more likely to cover claims that will arise from the more likely earthquakes we expect to experience.

    This bill was also introduced to the the United States Senate the previous year.

  • 2009

    California Earthquake Authority: employees

    The California Earthquake Authority should operate efficiently and effectively, but the current statutory 25 employee ceiling is not realistic. The CEA’s statutory duties include helping California homeowners take steps to make their homes more resistant to quake damage. However, the Authority’s mitigation-related outreach and support activities have been uneven in recent years. This is largely because it has ongoing financial challenges and very limited staffing resources. These factors make it hard to keep mitigation a high priority. Allowing the CEA to employ a Chief Mitigation Officer will help it do a better job of fulfilling this important statutory duty.

    Property taxation: transfer of base year value: disaster relief

    This measure makes good economic and public policy sense and will benefit California homeowners who lose a home in a natural disaster.  The post disaster process of tallying up losses, negotiating mortgage obligations, reconstructing plans, getting reliable contractor estimates and collecting insurance benefits take far longer than most people anticipate. Buying instead of rebuilding often emerges as the best option for a disaster victim…but often not until years have passed since the event that destroyed their home. As economic conditions and property values shift, disaster survivors need the flexibility this bill provides.

    Electronic transactions: exceptions

    There are myriad technological reasons why people sometimes do not get email messages that are intended for them. These include spam and junk mail filters, connection and mailbox problems. Allowing insurance contracts to be non-renewed, cancelled or otherwise unenforceable on the basis of email notices alleged to have been sent is unsound.

  • 2008

    Insurance Rate Oversight

    The bill would eliminate crucial consumer protections of Proposition 103 and dismantle the voter approved system of insurance rate oversight that was established by Proposition 103 and prevent refunds when insurers illegally overcharge customers. It will result in higher insurance rates for auto, homeowner and business insurance policyholders in California.

    Insurance: agents and broker

    California law must ensure that the public is adequately protected by drivers with insurance regardless of whether the driver procured the insurance from a direct writer, a captive agent or an independent broker. This bill would eliminate this protection for drivers and the public. It instead creates a vague test for insurance coverage that is based on the label of the person selling a policy. Even if the insured never met his or her broker, bought coverage through one phone call, and doesn’t know his or her name, the proposed new law would make that producer a “broker” and any errors they make become the insureds problem, not the insurance company’s problem.

    Annuity sales disclosures

    This bill is detrimental to seniors because it conflicts with existing California statutory disclosures and consumer protections. It is imperative that consumers know as much as possible about these confusing and heavily marketed products before purchasing an annuity. In its current form, this bill will limit a consumer’s ability and right to know while at the same time negating the industry’s obligation to educate consumers in all but the most limited of circumstances.