This primer is the fourth of a five-part series to guide voters through the upcoming midterm election for Georgia agriculture, labor, insurance and public service commissioners as well as the superintendent of schools – down ballot races often overlooked by average voters. This series examines how what happens in these offices impact you.
It’s not the most glamorous-sounding job but the Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner is more plugged into your life than you may realize.
The insurance commissioner’s work goes well beyond regulating and resolving issues of fraud or pricing involving your health, life or auto insurance premiums.
Here’s what you need to know.
The economic health of a state can affect its healthcare costs, insurance coverage and access to care, and people’s physical and mental health. Consequently, insurance costs are always on Georgians’ minds.
If you’re a driver in Georgia, it’s a big concern.
The average cost of car insurance in Georgia is $2,009 a year for full coverage and $642 per year for minimum coverage, based on Bankrate’s 2022 study of quoted annual premiums. That’s 13% more than the national average annual rates, which are $1,771 for full coverage and $545 for minimum coverage.
Georgia Insurance Commissioner John King recently blasted Allstate - one of the nation’s largest auto insurers - after it announced a 25% rate hike in the state.
“I am angry and disappointed that Allstate has chosen to exploit a loophole in state law to implement such a substantial increase in costs on hardworking Georgians when families are already struggling with historic inflation everywhere, from the gas pump to the grocery store,” King said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Georgians saw their monthly health insurance premiums for benchmark plans fall 16% from last year to an average of $394, well below the national average of $438, according to healthmarkets.com.
In addition to insurance matters, the insurance commissioner also is in charge of inspecting elevators and issuing licenses to traveling carnivals, circuses and race tracks. So every time you step onto an elevator or slide into the seat of the Tilt-a-Whirl at the traveling carnival in town, thank the state insurance commissioner - he is responsible for making sure they go up and come down safely.
“The primary role of the insurance commissioner is to protect consumers from bad products, to make sure the product is legitimate. After that, the insurance commissioner really is there to provide oversight,” said Mike Iverson, owner of the Fairburn independent insurance firm, M.D. Iverson Group; and president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Georgia, a group of more than 500 independent insurance agencies statewide.
“The insurance commissioner helps find the balance between protecting the consumer and [keeping a] healthy marketplace [with choices] for insurance companies,” Iverson added.
Why It Matters
The insurance commissioner is in charge of a multitude of duties beyond regulating insurance policies and investigating insurance companies.
Whoever is in the job has a lot of influence on the lives of Georgia families. That influence also extends to the policies, investigations and enforcements the commissioner focuses on.
Insurance commissioner John King has been in the job since July 1, 2019 when Gov. Brian Kemp appointed him to replace Jim Beck, who was sentenced in October 2021 to seven years in federal prison for tax fraud and for stealing more than $2.5 million from his former employer, the Georgia Underwriting Association.
Voters will decide Nov. 8 if King keeps his job or if it goes to his Democratic challenger Janice Laws Robinson, a licensed insurance professional with more than 20 years of experience. Robinson first ran for the position in 2018.
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Read State Affairs’ Georgia Votes 2022 series.
Header photo: the Georgia Scorcher at Six Flags Over Georgia (Credit: Six Flags Over Georgia)
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