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Bills Provide Increased Consumer Protections For Californians

Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara recently thanked Governor Gavin Newsom for protecting California consumers through the signing of bills sponsored by Commissioner Lara and the California Department of Insurance. The new laws will help future wildfire survivors to recover faster, protect the rights of domestic workers in an emergency, and end discrimination against people living with HIV seeking life and disability income insurance coverage.

Senate Bill 872, authored by Senator Bill Dodd, removes barriers for future disaster survivors to get critical insurance benefits and streamlines wildfire recovery processes for homeowners who suffer from a loss. The new law will allow for an extension of Additional Living Expenses benefits and require an advance payment for no less than four months of ALE without an itemized inventory form, among other consumer protections.

Assembly Bill 2756, authored by Assemblymembers Monique Limón and Richard Bloom, provides additional insurance for disaster survivors to rebuild and will require more transparency and a signed acknowledgement when a new policy is sold that does not cover losses from fire. In addition, AB 2756 reduces the burden on disaster survivors when they rebuild their home by requiring fire policies to include a minimum of 10 percent of primary dwelling limits (“Coverage A”) as an additional amount available for replacement costs of the policyholder’s structure at the time of loss to help consumers comply with applicable building codes.

Also, to protect domestic workers during disasters, including wildfires or COVID-19, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2658, authored by Assemblymember Autumn Burke, which shields domestic workers from employer retaliation, including firing, if they refuse to work in hazardous conditions or emergency situations. These protections will prevent an employer from ordering an employee to remain in or enter a mandatory evacuation zone due to wildfires or a local public health order, including COVID-19.

“I have met with wildfire survivors throughout the state who have lost so much and have struggled to recover,” said Commissioner Lara. “I am thankful that Governor Newsom signed these bills so future wildfire survivors will have additional resources and time to recover more quickly. There is still more work to be done and we must do all we can to help these survivors as wildfires continue to burn and threaten our entire state. I am also grateful that Governor Newsom has taken this action for our domestic workers who were afraid of losing their jobs during these disaster situations, like wildfires, and instead risked their health and safety.”

Senate Bill 1255, authored by Senator Lena Gonzalez and Senate Insurance Committee, includes the “Equal HIV Insurance Act” which prohibits an insurance company from declining an application or enrollment request for coverage under a policy for life insurance or disability income insurance based solely on the applicant’s HIV status.

“The signing of the Equal HIV Insurance Act means once and for all that HIV status will not be a barrier to protecting yourself and your loved ones through life and disability income insurance,” said Commissioner Lara. “I thank Governor Newsom for recognizing the need for this legislation and ending this decades-old discrimination against HIV-positive individuals living in our Golden State who are living longer and healthier lives today.”

In addition to these bills, Governor Newsom signed two other Department-sponsored bills this legislative year including:

Senate Bill 1192, authored by Senator Steven Bradford, which creates Department oversight of public safety workers’ benefits associations to ensure these associations provide financially sound insurance benefits to their members.

Assembly Bill 2049, authored by Assembly Member Ken Cooley, which incorporates the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)-approved revisions to the Credit for Reinsurance Model Regulation into California law, thus preventing federal preemption of the state’s existing law regarding credit for reinsurance and retaining California’s state accreditation by the NAIC.