December 15, 2008                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton


      Morrison praises consumer interest groups
      A national coalition of consumer advocacy groups has given Montana Auditor and Insurance Commissioner John Morrison a new award for "Excellence in Consumer Advocacy.". The award was presented at the winter meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in Dallas, Texas.
      "For eight years, John Morrison has spoken out for consumers and led important reforms at the NAIC," said Birny Birnbaum, executive director of the Center for Economic Justice of Austin, Texas. "Commissioner Morrison has helped level the playing field not only for Montanans but for millions of Americans."
      The groups presenting the award included: United Policyholders (San Francisco), the Center for Economic Justice, the Center for Insurance Research (Boston), Citizen Action of New York, Georgia Legal Services Elder Rights Project, Mid and Western Minnesota Legal Services, Housing Opportunities Made Equal (Virginia) and the Iowa Citizen Action Network.
      "These groups, and the advocates that represent them are the ones that deserve an award," said Morrison. "They are far outnumbered and they make sure the voice of the consumer is heard in a pretty tough atmosphere. If they like my work, I'm honored. It's been a privilege to work with them."
      The consumer advocacy award was created this year and given to Morrison and Wisconsin Commissioner Sean Dilweg, singling them out among 56 lead insurance regulators from the states, the District of Columbia, and various territories. The award was presented by Professor Brenda Cude of the University of Georgia.
      "Commissioner Morrison has been at the spearhead of so many consumer protection efforts," said Cude. "This man has courage and he will be missed."
      Morrison leaves office in January after serving two full terms as State Auditor. He was prevented by term limits from seeking another term.
      Morrison's work at the national organization has included:
      -As Chairman of the Market Regulation committee of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Morrison led creation of a new national requirement that insurance companies report data about how they treat consumers, such as how many claims are denied and delayed, how many policies are canceled and how many complaints the companies have against them. The information may then be used by regulators to examine deviant companies and take disciplinary action.
      -Morrison helped write a new ethics policy for the NAIC that prohibits commissioners from accepting lavish dinners and other gifts from insurance lobbyists, a long standing practice at national meetings of insurance regulators.
      -Morrison helped write a white paper that cited insurance industry documents acknowledging and verifying global warming and its relationship to increasing catastrophes. An op ed by Morrison and Florida insurance Commissioner Alex Sink on the subject was prominently featured by the Washington Post last year.
      -Morrison led the effort to adopt a model law banning "discretionary clauses" from group health and disability insurance policies. The model, now followed in New York, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, California and Montana, among other states, has restored broad claim handling rights upon millions of Americans.
      - As chairman of a national task force, Morrison developed a strategy to help stop the sale of phony health insurance plans and medical discount schemes that take consumers' money under false pretenses. Morrison was twice featured in Consumer Reports for this effort.
      -As chairman of a national consumer protection task force, Morrison led the creation of an internet web portal that provides to the public important and previously unavailable information about insurance companies. His efforts were featured in Money magazine and other national publications.
      -As a still freshly minted commissioner, Morrison chaired the post September 11, 2001 national task force of insurance commissioners organized to address legal issues raised by the largest insurance disaster in history. On the recommendation of his task force, all 50 states disapproved terrorism exclusions in personal insurance lines and limited them in commercial lines. Morrison's work was widely reported in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and other national publications.