MGDA Issues Bulletin in Response to Governor's Move to Institute Deductibles

As reported on glassBYTES™ last Friday, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has put forth an auto insurance reform package to make the state more attractive to insurance companies. Part of the agenda is doing away with no deductible windshield replacement coverage, which it was predicted "would generate a flood of irate calls and letters to lawmakers from auto glass companies."

Sure enough, the first salvo has been tossed. The Massachusetts Glass Dealers Association issued a bulletin shortly after the Governor's announcement of the package, condemning imposition of a deductible as a blow to consumer safety.

Here is the content of the bulletin:

Governor Romney's Auto Insurance Reform Package: Bad for Consumers and Bad for You!

June 2, 2005

Yesterday, Governor Mitt Romney unveiled his Auto Insurance Reform package, a set of sweeping changes to the current system. Cited as a major component in his reform package is the establishment of a $100.00 deductible on auto glass coverage. The MGDA believes this portion of the reform package would be a terrible blow to consumer safety in the state with the highest accident rate in the nation. It is obvious that this portion of the package has not been well thought out and does not fit his self-proclaimed "pro-consumer" stance. The governor is quoted in today's Boston Globe as saying, "Somebody's got to stand up for the consumer. I've got no dog in this hunt." Perhaps the governor needs to know that he has unleashed a Doberman to bite at the jugular vein of auto safety in Massachusetts.

By his declaration yesterday, the governor has also unleashed a Doberman to bite at the jugular vein of your business and the livelihoods of the thousands of people employed in our industry, and their families. Our industry knows the role that a properly installed windshield plays in keeping drivers and passengers inside the vehicle during an accident and that the windshield acts as a strong backstop for airbags when they are deployed. Professionals in the auto glass industry know that lives are saved and serious injuries are prevented by properly installed windshields when a vehicle rolls over. By forcing policyholders to pay a $100.00 deductible for windshield replacement, many of them will simply drive with cracked windshields. This is a disaster waiting to happen. With the high rate of accidents which occur in our state, lives will be lost and people will be critically injured as a result of the politically motivated thinking of the governor. It is obvious that Romney's clouded thinking has been influenced by short-sighted auto insurance executives and their lobbyists. This portion of the bill does not make financial sense, is anti-consumer, and will result in additional fatalities and serious injuries.

That being said, this is, if nothing else, politics. On one side, there is Commerce Insurance Company and perhaps a couple of other large insurers, the Attorney General, the legislative leadership, the medical community, the legal community, the auto collision shops, and the auto glass companies. On the other side, there is the governor and his administration, all of the "second-tier" auto insurance companies, most of the Republican legislators who must compromise their own common sense to support their leader, and, this is very sad to say, but there are also some auto glass companies whose positions are so compromised that they are actually working against their own industry. Never, ever forget these people. The governor has chosen to make auto insurance reform an issue that distinguishes himself from Attorney General, Tom Reilly, who is likely to run against him next fall. The name calling has already begun, with Romney being quoted in today's Boston globe as saying that Reilly is "favoring the Soviet-style, one-size fits all insurance model." When they start bringing Communism into the argument at the first press conference, you can bet this is going to be a real hum-dinger!

The auto glass industry and the Federal government have established safety standards which are proven to save lives and prevent serious injuries. Common sense tells us that people will, in some cases, delay or cancel purchases, even when safety is involved. That is the beauty of the zero deductible option for auto glass in Massachusetts; most consumers don't have to decide whether they should replace their damaged windshield. Secondly, and this fact has been pretty much lost in the argument, Massachusetts consumers choose to pay extra money for this protection, They absolutely want it and they "vote" with their wallets year after year when they renew their policies. When the governor "decides" to take away this right to pay extra money for more protection, how does he have the right to criticize anyone for supporting a "Soviet-style" anything?

All of this is important to you because, first and foremost, you must fight for the safety rights of your customers. And, if this reform package passes, it will be very bad for your business. If this bill passes, it will cost you a lot of money. You will be laying off a good number of your employees, you will be selling some of your trucks, you will cut your own pay. Your opportunity to reach for the American Dream will turn into a nightmare. Some of you will go out of business altogether.

The MGDA has been lobbying hard to get our message on this issue to key legislators. We informed you a few months ago that the deductible bill was filed as a stand-alone piece of legislation. We knew we had this fight in front of us, and we have been working since last December when the bill was filed. That the governor has swept this provision into this overall reform package is not a surprise to us; it just rearranges the battlefield a bit. Now the heavy lifting begins.

This announcement by the governor is very timely. Last week, our Auto Glass Committee met and unanimously agreed that fighting the deductible bill was going to be the main focus of our activities during the current legislative session. The decision was made that this issue was so important, that we would have to push aside some other initiatives in order to stay focused on it. Unfortunately, this is not just a life-or-death issue for consumers. It's also a life-or-death issue for many of our members. Please understand that our industry must prevail on this issue. It is not going to happen by anyone waving a magic wand. We're not going to prevail just because we are right and the forces of evil are wrong. We are not going to prevail just because we work tirelessly on this issue. We are not going to prevail just because consumers are on our side. We are not going to prevail just because we raise money to fight this battle. This is politics. It's going to get dirty. With the insurance industry involved, it's going to get very, very dirty. And expensive!

At last week's Auto Glass Committee meeting, it was decided that we would begin a fund-raising campaign specifically to fight the deductible bill. We need the entire industry to get behind this effort. This is it, guys! Whether you've been a long time supporter of the MGDA, a new member, or someone who has resisted or had past disagreements with our organization, this is, in the words of one of the committee members, "the fight of our lives."

At this stage, we are going to play things close to the vest. Yes, we have a goal for this fund-raising effort. Yes, we have the beginnings of a plan in place as to how we would like to spend that money for additional lobbying efforts and for a public awareness campaign. And, yes, we are going to be asking you for that money.

Yesterday, the governor finally framed the argument of the case against our industry. The fact that he singled out, according to today's Boston Globe, the glass deductible and our industry in the same breath as "Commerce [Insurance Company], lawyers, chiropractors, physical therapists," should tell you how serious this fight is going to be. We didn't choose this battle, but we are, undeniably, a part of it. LET'S WORK TOGETHER AND WIN!!!

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