Fellow Democrat Janice Laws Robinson is vying to become the first Black woman ever to serve as insurance and safety fire commissioner in Georgia. This officer holder’s primary job is regulating insurance companies and their products — including medical, automobile, home, and fire-related policies — at the state level to ensure they’re not overcharging or otherwise taking advantage of Georgia residents.
In September of last year, the state had the fourth-most expensive car insurance rates in the nation. Anti-Black discrimination in the insurance industry is also a problem Laws Robinson wants to tackle. She says insurance providers in the state often use socioeconomic factors that have nothing to do with actual risk — including a person’s credit score, employment status, ZIP code, education level, and even social media habits — to justify charging Black people more for insurance than their non-Black counterparts.
“As your next insurance commissioner, they will have to prove to me that their algorithms and the external data that they’re collecting does not discriminate against Black and brown communities, and any community that has been historically discriminated against, but especially Black and brown communities [and] LGBTQ+ communities,” Laws Robinson said.
It’s been nearly three decades since a Democrat served as insurance commissioner of Georgia. It’s a job Republican incumbent John F. King and his GOP predecessors haven’t been doing very well, according to Laws Robinson, who accused her opponent and the party he serves of automatically approving insurance rate increases, to the detriment of Georgia citizens.
“No one is really fighting back and pushing back on the rate increases, so all the rate increases are just going through,” Laws Robinson said. “As insurance commissioner, I will challenge the rate increases, so every six months, they’re not just going to be able to raise rates without it being justified.”
The insurance commissioner role is one Laws Robinson has been preparing for most of her adult life. She spent 20 years working as a licensed insurance professional for major brands, including Liberty Mutual, MetLife, State Farm, and Nationwide before running for the office for the first time in 2018.
“I’m here because I’m the right person, and I know I will do a great service just like I’ve done over the last two decades,” the 44-year-old, married mother of two told Capital B Atlanta.
If elected, Laws Robinson said her top priority will be establishing lower insurance rates. Her second will be finding ways to expand access, particularly health insurance services in rural areas where Black residents are faced with hospital closures and limited access to reliable medical resources.
She plans to use telehealth services — health care provider consultations conducted online or over the phone — in rural areas. She said the practice has been mandated by the state during the pandemic, and she intends to keep using it.
“What I will direct is that we continue these benefits so people will have access to video chat, telehealth care, in areas where there’s just no doctors around,” Laws Robinson said.
Speaking of more digital initiatives, Laws Robinson also plans to make improvements to the department’s online services.
“Right now, if you go to the insurance commissioner’s website, you have to really try to figure out, ‘How do I file a complaint? How do I let the insurance commissioner know that I’m having issues with an insurance company paying my claim?’” she said.
Affordable housing has been one of the top issues for Black Georgians this year. Laws Robinson said keeping renters and homeowners insurance rates low is a way to address the problem.
“When the cost of insurance goes up, that also increases the cost of your housing,” she said. “It also increases whether or not you can qualify sometimes even for a mortgage, for people that are looking to purchase homes.”
Laws Robinson lives over 30 miles south of Atlanta in Newnan, a place she has called home for over a decade. Being a Black woman living in Georgia has given her greater insight on the challenges faced by others in the state.
“I know what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet,” she said. “I’m here to serve our community, to make sure that we have a seat at the table equal to what the insurance companies have enjoyed for over a century.”