The Two-Decade Battle to Reform America's Automobile Insurance System
In Highway Robbery Peter Kinzler delivers a fast-paced behind-the-scenes account of two federal legislative efforts twenty years apart—one from the political left and one from the right—to reform America’s auto insurance system to make it fairer and more affordable. He explains how the legislation was designed to achieve those objectives and describes the political challenge of trying to overcome the entrenched special interest opposition of those who stood to lose billions—trial lawyers and insurers—if the new no-fault system were adopted.
Highway Robbery provides readers with both a primer on how fault and liability auto insurance, no-fault, and no-fault choice insurance policies work and who benefits most from which system. Peter Kinzler, with years of experience as a congressional staffer and in the private sector, is the perfect guide through these important policy and political fights, enlivened with revealing firsthand sketches of the legislators, staffers, academics, and lobbyists who played major roles in these attempts as well as their interplay with each other. Drawing upon his decades of engagement with the issues, Kinzler shows how thoughtful and skilled members of Congress, good staff, and thorough academic research can lay the groundwork for important reform legislation; in doing so he provides a model for restoring Congress’s effectiveness, whenever it chooses to resume exercising its constitutional authority as the legislative branch of government.
“‘How the Sausage Fails To Get Made.’ That would be my subtitle for this worthy volume. It is the definitive history of the auto insurance insanity; the engaging story of an idealistic lawyer, looking back after half a century in the legislative trenches; and, most important, instructive reading for serious young people contemplating careers in law, politics, or public service. It’s up to them to figure out how we can do better.”
—Andrew Tobias, author of Invisible Bankers: Everything the Insurance Industry Never Wanted You to Know and The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need
“Peter Kinzler navigates through political and legislative gridlock that, underwritten for decades by the US insurance industry, has kept American citizens and motorists from reaching the destination of nationwide, no-fault insurance. Whether you take this historical excursion for academic purposes or simply to educate yourself on the bumps along the long-haul journey, rest assured Kinzler’s style will keep you on course and fully alert behind the wheel.”
—Peter George Markwith, adjunct faculty, Bentley University, and owner, Unified Business Technologies, LLC
“I highly recommend Peter Kinzler’s book. Having worked with Peter on the public policy issue that is the basis of this book, I believe readers will find it to be both fascinating and informative as to how public policy issues are pursued in Congress.”
—Herman Brandau, associate general counsel (retired), State Farm Insurance
“Peter Kinzler’s masterful book provides an instructive, scholarly insider’s analysis of two central issues confronting the American system of lawmaking: how to weigh the costs and benefits of proposed major social legislation and how the forces of competing interest groups combine to resolve—or not resolve—such proposals. Because Kinzler examines these general issues in the concrete setting of the decades-long efforts to enact national no-fault auto insurance legislation, his analysis is particularly deep and rich.”
—Thomas G. Krattenmaker, former professor of law, Georgetown University Law Center
“Peter Kinzler provides a vivid and revealing account of his decades-long quest to enhance the value provided to automobile insurance consumers. The story accurately recounts his work to help consumers over the efforts of those who profit handsomely off of the liability system. A compelling read for those interested in congressional advocacy, true consumerism, liability system inefficiencies, and the $300 billion automobile insurance industry.”
—Steve McManus, senior vice president and general counsel, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
“Everyone who drives a car—and thus pays auto insurance—must wonder if there is a cheaper way. In this terrific book, Peter Kinzler tells the inside story of why no-fault auto insurance, that better and cheaper way, has yet to become widely available in this country. This book is that rare combination of excellent policy analysis and real-world politics, from a former insider, that can hopefully one day impel legislative reform to make no-fault auto insurance a reality.”
—Robert Litan, nonresident senior fellow and former director, Economic Studies program, Brookings Institution
“Highway Robbery offers a sophisticated account of the long struggle to create a federal no-fault auto insurance system, explaining why passing reform that promises to lower premiums, reduce administrative costs, and enhance benefits has proven so elusive. Along the way, Kinzler shows how the American policy-making system actually works and the difficulties of navigating political obstacles inside the Beltway. This crisply written book is ideal for courses on American politics and policymaking, offering an invaluable contrast to the standard ‘how-a-bill-becomes-a-law’ texts in the field.”
—Jeb Barnes, professor of political science, University of Southern California
“Peter Kinzler’s modern history of the effort to enact no-fault automobile insurance is a must-read book. He brings his considerable intelligence and his compelling judgments to bear. He makes a powerful argument for real reform, making it clear that the beneficiaries of a no-fault style reform are American car owners. They would save billions, not just in lower premiums but also in better and more fair claim service. His case for reform is overwhelming, and though Peter is no longer on Capitol Hill, he continues to be a tireless advocate for this essential reform.”
—William Mattea, retired chief of staff, Senator Carol Moseley-Braun
“America’s system of auto insurance fails to protect consumers and charges them tens of billions a year in excess premiums. Peter Kinzler, as the key House congressional staffer and former head of an outside coalition in a four-decade effort to achieve reform, has written a sprightly and authoritative account of why commonsense reforms are so difficult. He turns a daunting topic into an engaging narrative.”
—Robert Kuttner, coeditor, American Prospect, and professor, Brandeis UniversitySee fewer reviews...
Highway Robbery details how the trial bar used the levers of political power first to undermine state no-fault laws and then to use the weaknesses they had implemented in the laws to undermine passage of federal legislation. It also describes the surprising alliance in opposition between the trial bar and famed consumer advocate Ralph Nader. No-fault continues to hold the promise of better compensation and dramatic premium reductions, with the largest savings available to those who need them most—low- and moderate-income drivers. The most likely scenario for further federal consideration of auto insurance reform would be in the context of congressional action on universal health insurance.