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Lawmakers wary of car insurance plan

Lawmakers who oppose Governor Deval Patrick's plan for "managed competition" in the auto insurance market told colleagues yesterday that the proposal could hurt their reelection hopes.

Senator Dianne Wilkerson and Representative Antonio Cabral say new regulations leave loopholes for companies to charge higher rates to members of minority groups and the poor.

Cabral and Wilkerson are seeking support for a bill that would change the administration's final set of rules created to open the state's auto insurance market to greater competition and offer drivers more choices and lower prices.

In a letter to colleagues, Cabral and Wilkerson are soliciting more supporters for their legislation by explaining that some drivers could face increases of 9.3 percent and that bills will go out as the election season begins next year.

"Do you really want to try to explain that to your constituents while you are collecting signatures for your nomination papers?" they wrote.

Cabral, a New Bedford Democrat, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Wilkerson, a Democrat from Boston, said in an interview that she is not politicizing a policy debate. She said administration officials told lawmakers the changes would be phased in over several years.

"A lot of people relied on that in the assessment of their support," said Wilkerson, who like many lawmakers will be up for reelection next year.

They said Massachusetts drivers have seen an average rate reduction of 8 percent for the past three years.

Insurance Commissioner Nonnie Burnes declined to comment.

Consumers will be able to shop for auto insurance under the system starting late this winter. The new market is to begin next April.

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