NJ Insurance Carriers Oppose Controversial “Emergency Response Fees” [AUDIO]
Some New Jersey towns are now charging "emergency response fees" for firefighters to put out a blaze, respond to a car accident or hazardous spill.
All three of the state's major insurance carriers vehemently oppose the idea and some say they don't cover it.
New Jersey is one of 26 states that allow towns to assess "emergency response fees" against property owners and their insurance carriers and towns such as Atlantic City, Bloomfield and Passaic have passed ordinances or are considering the idea.
"These are services that are paid through property taxes or sales taxes and municipalities shouldn't go looking elsewhere to fund essential services that government delivers" said Michael Barry, spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, based in New York City.
Barry says often times these so-called firefighter fees are passed on to consumers through higher rates.
"There are some insurers that will pay these fees and there are some that will not. The existence of these types of taxes can place upward pressure on insurance rates in the long run."
All State New Jersey
"We have a standard feature in our homeowners policy that states if a customer incurs a fee from a fire department when called to protect the insured's property, we would reimburse the customer up to $500 and no deductible would apply" said Danny Jovic, spokesman for All State New Jersey.
But as far as auto policies, he said they have no policies that address the emergency response fee because its not something they had to deal with before.
"We do feel that consumers should not have to pay for services provided through municipal taxes" said Jovic.
State Farm Insurance
"For auto policies we cover medical service provided at the scene of an accident, but if firefighters want to extinguish a blaze in an unoccupied vehicle, that would not be covered" said spokesman Dave Phillips.
There is some coverage for homeowners and businesses.
"The company pays up to $500 in emergency fees for auto policies and up to $1,000 on commercial building policies."
Phillips says while the carrier is sensitive to budgetary pressures that face police and fire districts today, "We are opposed to these types of fees. If these fees become a normal part of the claim-settling process, there could eventually be an impact on the rates for those that have towns that put them into effect."
New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance
Patrick Breslin, a spokesman for New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co., said homeowners and auto policies written by the company don't cover such fees.
"This type of fee is not included in our normal insurance contract. The contracts that we had in effect for many years does not have any kind of provision for this payment.
Local "user pays" laws are banned in 13 states, one of which is neighboring Pennsylvania.