Texas funds two insurance related agencies through our property taxes and other taxes that are levied on individuals and businesses:
- The Texas Department of Insurance
- The Texas Office of Public Insurance Counsel
The roles of these two agencies differ in some key areas and converge where most Texans are concerned.
Texas Department of Insurance’s (TDI) was established in 1876 to
- Regulate the insurance industry fairly and diligently
- Promote a stable and competitive market
- Provide information that makes a difference
On the regulatory side, TDI regulates:
- Insurance companies and their agents
- Third-party administrators
- Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
- Premium finance companies
- Continuing care retirement communities
- Insurance adjusters
- Public insurance adjusters
In addition, TDI is charged with:
- Compliance and enforcement of insurance laws
- Financial regulation
- Investigating insurance fraud
- Overseeing how insurance products are advertised
- Technical analysis of insurance data for policy makers and consumers
- Division of workers’ compensation
- Helping consumers
- Consumer help line
- Complaint assistance
- Workers’ compensation dispute resolution
- Public education
- Disaster response teams
- State Fire Marshal’s Office
The Texas Office of Public Insurance Counsel (OPIC) was established in 1992. Its mission encompasses:
- Representing the interests of consumers in insurance matters.
- Promoting public understanding of insurance issues
- Advocating fairness and stability of insurance rates and coverage
- Making the insurance market more responsive to consumers
OPIC represents consumer interests, both individuals and small businesses, on matters involving rates, rules and forms affecting home, auto, life, title and credit insurance, as well as life, accident and health insurance.
OPIC primarily represents consumers’ interests to TDI. This was most notable when recently it was argued in February of this year that TDI should block State Farm’s 20% increase in home insurance rates. A few days later, Texas State Senator Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills introduced a bill to abolish OPIC.
Senator Hancock’s rationale is that funding both TDI and OPIC is a waste of taxpayers’ money. As to be expected, consumer groups disagree with Hancock’s bill. Their concern is: ‘Why eliminate the one consumer protection group that fight’s for policy holder rights and rates?’ After all, OPIC was only doing its statutory duty by objecting to State Farm’s rate increase request.
What do you think? Should OPIC remain and continue their consumer protection advocacy role for individuals and small businesses, or is their existence a waste of taxpayer money? Post your thoughts in the comments section of our blog or on our Facebook page. Let your voice be heard.