Bill cutting required auto glass coverage appears dead

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (AP) -

Arizona drivers used to paying nothing when their car windshields are cracked or shattered by rocks appear likely to keep the insurance coverage for at least another year.

That's because an effort by insurance companies to remove a requirement that they provide free auto glass replacement for customers who buy full coverage policies appears dead for the Legislative session.

The bill by Republican Sen. Karen Fann of Prescott was the latest effort by the industry targeting auto glass repair companies. Fann said she could not get insurance companies and auto glass companies to agree, so her effort is dead for the year.

Fann says another lawmaker could possibly amend the language onto another bill but she won't try.

"I am not reviving the zero-deductible auto glass, and I am not going to strike it onto another bill," she said. "I can tell you we still have a huge fraud issue that needs to be addressed."

Insurance companies say zero-deductible glass replacement has led to widespread overutilization and even fraud. Glass companies say losing the coverage would mean drivers go without repairing a critical safety item, and they welcome efforts to prosecute anytime fraud is found.

Lobbyist Marc Osborn, who represents several insurers and the industry group Property Casualty Insurance Association of America, said Monday that pressure on lawmakers from auto glass companies led to the demise of Senate Bill 1169.

"I think the auto glass companies have a pretty aggressive telemarketing effort," Osborn said. "They deployed that on the Legislature and I think some folks are just nervous about the political pressure generated by the auto glass shops."

Barry Aarons, a lobbyist for auto glass replacement companies, said it was public pressure following a January story by The Associated Press that brought the bill down.

"It didn't have the votes," Aarons said. "It would have died. I think (Fann) was probably smart to just pull it. It's always better to just have no vote than to have a no vote."

Osborn said insurers may try to revive some of the anti-fraud provisions in last year's failed legislation, although he provided no details of which elements might be included. Aarons said he believed that was possible as well.

"But as (Rep.) Eddie Farnsworth said when the bill finally went down last year, there's pages and pages worth of anti-fraud statutes on the books," Aarons said. "If there's fraud being committed, go ahead and prosecute it."

Insurance companies have been required to offer optional auto glass replacement for drivers with full coverage policies in Arizona for decades. The plans carry an extra premium, but no deductible, meaning replacements are free. Auto glass replacement firms are everywhere in the state because of the high rate of breakage due to heat and rocks and guaranteed free replacement.

Consumers benefit from the plans because they don't put off replacing broken windshields or lights with the coverage, Aarons said in an earlier interview. Insurers, he said, aren't going out of business because of the coverage.

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