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Letter to the Editor: No privilege for insurance companies

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

To the editor:

Senate Bill 823, sponsored by state Sen. David Klindt, Bethany, would extend attorney-client privilege to insurance companies. I believe it is wrong to bestow upon insurance companies the same privilege Missouri law gives our physicians and clergy.

Any documents, interviews and memos would be considered privileged under SB 823. Privileged documents are hidden from the public, law enforcement officers, the court system and even an insurance company's own policyholders.

From time to time an insurance company refuses to pay a claim. The policyholder has the right to take the insurance company to court. The only way to get people to tell the truth is by ensuring disclosure. Concealing facts denies policyholders their consumer rights. Allowing insurance companies to hide information through self-audits would make it impossible to hold insurance companies accountable.

It is the responsibility of the Missouri Department of Insurance to protect consumers. Although it is common for state agency staff members to attend Senate hearings as informational witnesses, it is highly unusual and wrong for them to testify in favor of a bill that would protect the industry that MDI regulates. Doug Ommen, MDI deputy director, testified in support SB 823.

A husband or wife and certain professionals -- attorneys, psychologists, physicians, clergy-- have privileged communications. By not bestowing upon the insurance companies the same sacred privilege that our physicians and clergy are entitled to, we protect Missouri consumers.

State Sen. TIMOTHY P. GREEN, 13th District,

Spanish Lake, Mo.