The Oregon Legislature — The PIA Working for You & a Comment from a Concerned Agent

This year in the Oregon Legislature, PIA Oregon Lobbyist Lana Butterfield has worked hard on behalf of PIA members and for independent insurance agents that belong to the PIA and those that don’t.

For the last couple of months she has worked tirelessly to remove PIA agents from the language of House Bill (HB) 3242. She views success this year as mixed.

In her often published, Agents’ Advocate, Butterfield praised the work of PIA member agents who responded to a request to contact their legislators, HB 3242-A no longer contains an increased standard of care for insurance producers.

However, Section 1 of HB 3242, “An insurer or other person may not commit or perform any of the following unfair claim settlement practices…” Butterfield is concerned about the words, “or other person” and thinks it might include agents.

“PIA and others argued that sometimes agents get involved in the claims process to help their clients, the policyholder,” she wrote and praised Kelsey Wood of Gordon Wood Insurance & Financial Services in Roseburg, Oregon who wrote some compelling testimony.

“PIA said that to involve agents in lawsuits because of this bill would hurt consumers,” she wrote in Agents’ Advocate. “Policyholders would no longer have agents go to bat for them, as most agents wouldn’t get involved due to the threat of lawsuits. We offered several suggestions for replacement language.”

In a work session on the bill, Butterfield said she asked the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Floyd Prozanski about agent responsibility.

“Chair Prozanski on the record said insurance agents who are trying to help their clients in the claims process would not be impacted by the bill because of the dash-5 amendment,” she wrote. [However], there is some disagreement from the insurance company trades who say that while the amendment does not include agents, it also does not specifically exclude them.”

With that she offered this advice — advice that she also shared with the attending members of the just concluded annual PIA Oregon/Idaho conference.

“I am not a lawyer but if I were an insurance producer (which I am not) I might consider pausing any activities involving claims until the courts have spoken on the issue, should the bills pass,” she wrote.

Butterfield is not alone in wondering about the wisdom of trying to get a bill like this passed.

This week, Portland’s Oregonian newspaper in its website published commentary in its editorial opinion section from account executive, T.J. Sullivan of PIA Oregon/Idaho member, Hagan Hamilton Insurance Solutions.

Like Butterfield, and other PIA agents and agencies, Sullivan is worried about the possible fallout of House Bills 3242 and 3243. He worries that bills like these make it harder for Oregonians to make financial ends meet.

“As an independent insurance agent, I help my clients in claims scenarios as an advocate. In my 23 years I have yet to have a claim escalate to the point that legal action was required because the insurance carrier didn’t settle the claim fairly,” Sullivan wrote. “That will change dramatically if the Legislature passes House Bills 3242 and 3243, moving from a proven model for claim resolution to one that incentivizes over-litigation. This would hurt individuals and Oregon’s small businesses, many of whom are struggling to stay competitive.”

He — like Butterfield — worries that passage of the bills will end up “incentivizing more costly lawsuits, insurers’ end up paying more to resolve claims — even when they prevail in court. And those costs get passed on as higher premiums.”

Sullivan pointed out the problems California had when similar legislation was passed in the Golden State.

“During the decade California allowed these lawsuits, the number of claims and the handling costs skyrocketed. And Washington has experienced similar rises since authorizing these lawsuits,” he told the Oregonian. “Legislators should reject these bills, just as they did 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021. Oregonians cannot afford these flawed policies.”

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The Professional Insurance Agents Western Alliance is a membership organization promoting and enhancing the success of independent agencies seeking to grow, learn and be heard within the industry.


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