Lower-risk drivers should pay less for auto insurance, and premiums have closely tracked broader U.S. economic trends for decades, Triple-I told the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Insurance Office (FIO) this week.
In a letter responding to a federal Request for Information, Triple-I said U.S. auto insurers accurately price their policies by using a wide variety of rating factors. All these factors must conform to the laws and regulations of the state in which the auto insurance policies are sold.
“There is no credible evidence that insurers charge more than they should, either across the broad market or in specific subsegments, such as neighborhood, race, income, education or occupation,” the Triple-I stated. The letter also said the rating factors U.S. auto insurers use to price their policies not only serve their purpose but are constantly retested to ensure their accuracy and reliability.
“If rating factors do their job well, they make insurance relatively inexpensive for some people and quite expensive for others,” the letter said. “In both cases, the assessment is correct. Drivers who present less risk pay less for coverage.”
The response to FIO’s information request highlighted how the appropriate price for an insurance policy varies greatly from customer to customer and from state to state. Insurance is regulated by state governments.
“Insurance companies and their actuaries have focused on finding factors that make sure every customer pays the appropriate rate,” the Triple-I said. Rates are based on historical loss experience for similar risks. Premiums constitute the price customers pay for insurance coverage.
Critics of U.S. auto insurer pricing practices have expressed concerns that certain rating factors, such as credit-based insurance scores and the geographic location of the customer’s residence, discriminate against lower-income drivers and minority groups. Triple-I explained that eliminating any rating factor – for whatever reason – forces those with less risk to overpay for auto insurance and allows those with greater risk to pay less than they should for auto insurance.
Interventions can backfire
“Eliminating factors does not affect the truth that they reveal, and if factors reveal that costs need to be high for a customer, banning them does nothing to change the underlying costs that are the reason the rate is high,” the Triple-I stated.
Regulators occasionally intervene in the rating process to make insurance less expensive for certain groups, citing the need to make insurance “affordable.”
“These interventions, however well-intentioned, can backfire in a spectacular way,” the Triple-I letter says, “raising the overall costs and severely reducing availability, as well as impeding innovations that could address the issue.”
Real problems need real solutions
Real solutions exist to make insurance more affordable, Triple-I says: “These solutions come not from tinkering with how insurers set prices but by addressing the costs that insurance covers.”
Improving the transportation environment and addressing societal issues that often force minorities and low- and moderate-income individuals to live and drive in circumstances where auto insurance costs the most are among the solutions suggested.
Extensive Triple-I research shows that rising claims costs have been the primary factor generating increased auto insurance rates.
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