Newspaper headlines blared out across the country about the skyrocketing insurance costs of driving an automobile in Louisiana. USA Today: “Louisiana Car Insurance Costs Most – the state can’t catch a break.” The San Francisco Chronicle: “Louisiana Tops State Rankings of Car Insurance Rates.” National Auto Week: “Drivers in Louisiana are hit hardest on Car Insurance Premiums.” New York Daily News: “Louisiana has the nation’s most expensive car insurance.” Similar headlines appeared in newspapers coast to coast.
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Just how bad are the Louisiana rates? Compared to surrounding states they’re stunning. The Bayou State far outpaces its neighbors to win the dubious distinction of having the highest car insurance rates in the nation. Annual premiums in New Orleans average more than $4,000 per year with Baton Rouge a little cheaper at an average of more than $3,300 per year.
Texas weighs in at $1,545, making it over $1000 cheaper to insure in Texas than in Louisiana. To the east, Mississippi, a state that fares worse than Louisiana on most lists, car insurance averages a paltry $1,345. Should it really cost $1,354 more for auto insurance in Louisiana than in Mississippi? To the north, Arkansas comes in at $1,545, which is $1,154 less than insuring in Louisiana. In every other state in America, the charge of insuring a vehicle is not just less, but a lot less, with the cost being 46 percent higher than the national average.
Thousands of Louisianans have a camp or beach property in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama or Florida where legal residence is claimed in order to obtain a much cheaper rate. Take note of some of your fellow employees or neighbors who drive around your city with out of state license plates. Even at the state capitol, some of the top assistants to statewide officials drive cars registered in other states.
Why are Louisiana costs so high and so out of line with the rest of the nation? Lawsuit abuse — “It’s those damn lawyers,” shout the insurance companies. But a check of the laws shows that both Mississippi and Texas allow for punitive damages that dramatically increase jury verdicts, where Louisiana does not allow such damages. Doctors in Louisiana only have to buy the first $100,000 of malpractice coverage, with a state fund picking up the excess. The problems go way beyond “those damn lawyers.”
Louisiana brags about its wonderful differences and the special charm of living in the deepest of the deep southern states. And rightfully so, when it comes to the culture, music, food, architecture, plantation homes, football and ambience. But the lousy roads, drunk driving, uninsured drivers, and poorly trained drivers are part of Louisiana’s differences as well, and they aren’t so wonderful.
Then there is regulation, or the lack thereof in Louisiana. In most states, there is a pre approval system that requires insurance companies to submit a rate increase request to the Department of Insurance. Yes, there is a submissions process in Louisiana. But the insurance company can go right ahead and raise their rates before regulator review. This makes as much sense as closing the gate after the horse is already out of the barn.
If you add up the much higher charges incurred by Louisiana insurance purchasers as compared to surrounding states, the local folks are stuck paying out well over $1.5 billion a year more. That’s $1.5 billion that has been taken away from the local economy.
It’s $1.5 billion that Louisiana families could be using to educate their kids, and improve their quality of life. It’s an injustice to Louisiana taxpayers that elected officials seem unwilling to address. And all Louisiana families are the losers.
“It’s not hurricanes that are causing high insurance rates, but bad government policy.”
Policy analyst Michelle Minton
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.