Insurer Group Issues Caution on Mandating Auto Coverage Affordability

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  • The realities of what goes into determining auto insurance liability, and how those determinations end up affecting consumers’ premium costs over the course of a year, have drawn a lot of attention in the last few months, and that includes drawing the ire of some state and federal lawmakers. Now, many legislators say they want to do more to make sure that consumers have access to “affordable” coverage, but industry experts say that mandating it by law isn’t the best way to handle the problem. For this reason, it might be incumbent upon insurance agents to make sure their clients understand what affects their premium prices and what they can do to improve their standing on an individual level.

    The concept of affordability is a good one for consumers to pursue, but having it written into state or federal law may put too much pressure on insurance companies to comply, and could open the entire market up to significant risk, according to a recent letter from the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies to regulators.

    Why is this coming now?
    In particular, the Federal Insurance Office recently requested public comment on how it could define and measure affordability in a way being sought by many lawmakers, the report said. The NAMIC pointed out that this issue shouldn’t be as contentious as it is considering the risk most Americans take on in other aspects of their lives, and pay more for doing so.

    “If consumers can choose to spend more of their income on alcohol and tobacco, and also more on television sets and cable service, than on automobile insurance, it is hard to make the case that it is difficult for these consumers to afford automobile insurance,” said Robert Detlefsen, NAMIC’s vice president of public policy, in a letter to Federal Insurance Office director Michael McRaith, citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics annual Consumer Expenditure Survey. “Insurers do not ask about the race or ethnicity of insureds or applicants for insurance. Safe, low-risk drivers come in all races, ethnicities, and income levels – as do high-risk drivers.”

    Insurance agents who do as much as possible to improve their relationships with clients are likely those who will be best positioned to retain business going forward. After all, studies show that consumers are more likely to be loyal as a result of good customer service than if another company can provide them with lower prices. Therefore, trying to prevent people from shopping around should be of the utmost importance.

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