Auto insurance reform will be part of the mix in the gubernatorial election in Louisiana, according to the representative who attempted but failed to pass a key bill this past session.
State Rep. Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge), who is term limited but running for a seat in the state Senate, said both Republican primary candidates have said they will sign such a bill if it crosses their desk.
Talbot, who introduced H.B. 372, which aims to lower insurance by encouraging settlements rather than suits, said he, if elected, is "absolutely going to make it a priority." The bill passed the House, but failed to move out of committee in the Senate.
One key element, Talbot told the Louisiana Record, is the lowering of the threshold for a jury trial from $50,000 to $5,000. This would, he said, "entice people to settle more."
When two parties are in disagreement, then one can say "if you are going to be reasonable, let's go to a jury," Talbot explained, further noting in states where this is the case – the next highest is $15,000, with many at zero – adversaries are "encouraged to work out an agreement."
In tandem with that provision, Talbot explained that other measures are simply bringing the "outlier" Louisiana in line with other states.
Louisiana, unlike neighbor Texas, allows for the reimbursement of what is billed, not what is actually paid, which, Talbot argues, can be a huge difference.
The headline bill may be around the $100,000 mark, but with health insurance discounts, the amount paid could be $30,000 to $40,000, Talbot said.
"We are losing insurance companies in Louisiana, and that is never a good thing for competition," the Senate candidate said.
But the key to his bill, he explained, is a mandatory review of costs and rates by the Insurance Commissioner one year after it comes into effect. If costs are down, then the companies must lower rates, Talbot said. "That is the kicker, that's what really makes it work."