Taylor votes against health care bill, but says it had good points

Published 12:11 am Sunday, November 15, 2009

In a town hall meeting here on Friday, Congressman Gene Taylor charged the insurance companies colluded after Katrina and that they should have their anti-trust exemption revoked by Congress.

Taylor, who represents the fourth district, talked to about 300 students and private citizens jammed into the Pearl River Community College Technology Center’s conference hall.

The fourth district is composed mainly of South Mississippi from Laurel down to the Gulf Coast, which includes Pearl River County. The meeting lasted about an hour and a half and generated some lively give-and-take. Taylor lives in Bay St. Louis.

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He said that the insurance industry is the only industry in the United States exempt from anti-trust laws, except for major league baseball. Being under the anti-trust law would prevent the insurance companies from talking to one another about their business operations.

“There are laws that say you have to buy a product (insurance), yet that product is exempt from the anti-trust laws,” he told the crowd.

“Since Katrina, I am convinced, that since it was legal for the insurance companies to talk to each other, I am personally convinced that State Farm, Allstate and Nationwide, did collaborate after the storm,” he said.

“I think they said, ‘Hey, if you don’t pay claims. . .that guy won’t have to pay claims either.’ I also think they got together and said, ‘We are going to raise rates; we are going to lower coverage.’ I also believe they eventually got together and just decided not to provide coverage in the three coastal counties, and said to themselves ‘we will let the state do it’,” he said.

“Then we (the insurance companies) will sell the state re-insurance, which is more profitable than dealing directly with customers,” he added.

He said before Katrina few people realized that insurance companies could collaborate because they are not under the anti-trust laws.

He said the health care measure passed on Nov. 7 by the House had a provision in it that would revoke the exemption.

He added that although he voted against the health care measure, there are some good provisions in it.

“One of the things I hope comes out of this is that the insurance companies lose their anti-trust exemption. Everyone should have to compete,” he said.

Although a Democrat, Taylor is known for his independence, usually votes on the conservative side, and is labeled a Blue Dog Democrat by the national media.

However, Republican candidate Joe Tegerdine, a Petal businessman, kicked off his campaign for Taylor’s seat in October with a whistle stop tour of the district and on a stop in Picayune charged Taylor was a “closet liberal” and twice voted for Nancy Polosi as speaker of the House.

Taylor asked about the charge of being a “closet liberal” on Friday bristled.

“First of all, I enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard when I was 17, hardly a liberal thing to do. I was elected to my home-town city council when I was 25; I was elected to the most conservative State Senate in America when I was about 30. I was elected to represent this area in Congress when I was 36. I am pro-gun, pro-life, for a strong national defense, and, above all, for a balanced budget,” he said.

He added, “There is nothing liberal about all of that. So if someone lied to you, then someone lied to you. And please tell that person (Joe Tergerdine) that I just called him a liar.”

Asked why he voted for Nancy Polosi as House Speaker, he said, “I will tell you exactly why.”

“She came down to South Mississippi and heard the horror stories of people who had been cheated by the insurance companies. She listened, stood in a town hall meeting in Bay St. Louis and said, If you will let me be speaker, we will pass some insurance reform through the U.S. Congress, let you get your wind and water policy, all one policy, so that the next time, and there will be a next time, when we have a hurricane, people won’t get screwed by the insurance companies; it doesn’t matter if the wind, water did it or a barge goes through your house, you get paid,” he said.

He added, “Based on that, the only other guy running for the post was a guy who voted against that; I am going to vote for people who are trying to help us. She kept her word; we passed it through the House, but it failed in the Senate. But I keep reminding her that we have to keep doing it until it becomes law.”

One of the more interesting exchanges took place between Jim Brown of Poplarville and Taylor:

Brown: The bill that passed last Saturday night mandated that you have to have insurance, and if you don’t, you can go to jail. Explain that.

Taylor: I would hope you would not fault me for a bill that I voted against. The House bill will never pass the Senate. I share your concerns but I want to alleviate some of your concerns, by saying that House bill will never pass the Senate. We will have to see what the Senate does and then we will have to vote again on it.

Brown: I am also upset over the fact that you are a member of the armed forces committee and we have boys over there getting their heads blown off and nobody is making a decision to send more troops over there that were requested.

Taylor: As regards Afghanistan, I am on the Armed Services Committee, and I have been to every single funeral of a Mississippi trooper who has died in that war. I have looked the dads, moms and kids in the eye. I take my job very seriously. I will be visiting the troops during Christmas. ..The generals made an impassioned case for the surge in Iraq to me over dinner. . .Not a one of them has made an impassioned case to me about a surge in Afghanistan. Why is that. I think the difference is they saw a light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq. I am not so sure they see one in Afghanistan.

Brown: Then bring the troops home.

Taylor: I am with you.

Audience: Applause.

Taylor: The fact that the generals are saying nothing, to me speaks volumes. And if you read (Afghistan commander Gen. Stanley) McChrystal’s report, how many times do you see corruption, narcotics, over and over. Everybody knows that (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai’s brother is one of the biggest dope dealers in Afghanistan. If that guy cannot control his brother, how can he control the country?

(McChrystal’s report said that corruption represents as great a threat to Afghanistan as the insurgency. You can see a copy of his report on the Washington Post’s website.)