N.J. AUTO MAY NOT BE UNPROFITABLE:

February 9, 2004

New Jersey’s new image as the poster child for insurance reform was looking a bit tarnished following the publication of statistics released by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in January. They seem to show that, contrary to industry statements, the state’s auto insurers actually made money in 2002—an average of 8 percent profit on premiums, the second highest profit in the nation after Connecticut, where carriers averaged 8.7 percent. Industry organizations immediately questioned the findings. The Independent Insurance Agents of New Jersey issued a statement indicating they were based on an inaccurate reading of the NAIC’s national statistics. The dispute, however, raises questions about the state’s recently enacted auto reforms, which were introduced after a well supported campaign convinced state legislators and Gov. James McGreevey that only a radical restructuring of New Jersey’s auto insurance regulations would convince more carriers to enter the market and ultimately reduce rates, which are still the highest in the country. The Record of Hackensack quoted the NAIC findings as supporting conclusions that all 60 New Jersey-based auto insurers netted a combined 8 percent profit from 2002 premiums. It pointed out, however, that five of the 60—Prudential, Allstate, State Farm, N.J. Manufacturers and USAA—made 98 percent of the profit, while other insurers made considerably less, or lost money. John K. Dyke, however, chairman of the New Jersey Auto Agents Alliance, indicated that he believed the insurance industry had created a misleading impression about its profitability in order to convince regulators and the public that there was a crisis. IIANJ noted that even the NAIC had called the findings “estimates” and that it hadn’t endorsed any analysis or calculations based on the use of its data.

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