Over 65 Discount Eyed

SEPTEMBER 2009: Back in 1978, our Association was the lead sponsor of legislation that resulted in the passage of Chapter 511 of the Acts of ’78.

This law provided that motor vehicle insurance rates for a vehicle insured by a resident sixty-five years of age or older was to be twenty-five percent lower than the applicable rate of such classification.

Now, according to reports, the Automobile Insurers Bureau is studying the risk of seniors, spurred by the several serious accidents apparently caused by drivers over age 75. This study, of course, threatens to be the first step in repealing the 25% discount for drivers over 65.

"I recall the full scale press the insurance industry lobbyists put on in '78 when we were fighting to enact the law on behalf of, not only our members, but all seniors with low or fixed income," says Association President Ralph White. "The deck was stacked against us... We didn't have the clout of the insurance titans. However the joint chairmen of the Legislature's Insurance Committee gave us a big boost when they and the Committee voted in favor of the bill and followed through during the entire Legislative process."

Senator Dan Foley (D-Worcester) and Representative Ted Aleixo (D-Taunton) were the co-chairmen of the Insurance Committee. Both are now state retirees and remember vividly the struggle to win that legislation.

"I won't forget that one," said Aleixo, now 67 and as active and vibrant as he was in '78. In a conversation at his Boston law office, he said that, "I was always proud of that bill. My constituents in Taunton were low-income and deserved a break at age 65."

Foley is now 88 and is not in good health. "It's been a struggle," he said from his Worcester home, when asked about his health. But the former senator perked up when reminded about the senior insurance discount for vehicle owners. "Oh yes, I'll always remember how hard you guys worked to push that bill. You made it impossible for us to let you down. Don't let them take it away from you."

While the Boston Herald sensationalized the possibility of elderly drivers "paying more" in a recent headline, the paper acknowledged that its review of Registry of Motor Vehicles data, for Year 2008, found that teens and young adults up to age 25 caused 53,762 crashes while those 70 and up caused 11,663 wrecks. And without a doubt, there are just as many over age 70 drivers in this state, as there are of teens to age 25.

Looking back, it should also be pointed out that Kevin Harrington (D- Salem) was Senate President in 1978 and Tom McGee (D-Lynn) was Speaker of the House. These two leaders of the Legislature did not succumb to insurance lobby pressure, but rather stayed with us.

"Many seniors don't know the history of this law. They just take it for granted. But we're sending a message to the insurance industry to back off. We'll rally every senior group in the state along with our Association. The law's been on the books for 31 years and it's going to stay on the books," said White.