The deregulation of the Massachusetts auto insurance market has driven up prices, boosted insurer profits, reduced consumer protections and generally created confusion in the marketplace, according to a new report by the state’s attorney general.
The report, which comes roughly two years after the creation of managed competition, provides an accounting of how the market is operating, and includes a number of recommendations to improve consumers’ interests.
“When the Division of Insurance introduced the new deregulated auto insurance system nearly two years ago, they contended that this system would result in better rates for consumers,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley in a statement. “While the long-term results of this new system remain to be seen, our office is concerned that consumers may not, in fact, be getting the best rates and the protections they deserve.”
The report notes that most consumers haven’t shopped around for insurance — and therefore, not driving rates down — while are now increasing. Coakley’s office said it is particularly concerned companies are now rating customers on several new factors more closely linked to socio-economic status, rather than to consumers’ driving records.
Among the observations included in the reports:
- Many consumers whose rates decreased paid more than they should have after the market was deregulated. Had the regulatory rate-setting process occurred in 2008, rates would have been reduced for essentially all consumers, with average rate reductions much greater than those seen under deregulation.
- Once ‘managed competition’ began, insurers instantly began seeking higher profit. In 2008, the Division of Insurance accepted target returns in the insurer rate filings that were over 150 percent of the 2007 regulated value for some insurers..
- There is currently no easy way for consumers to determine what the market prices for insurance are, what each company will charge a particular individual, and what discounts and special coverage options are available. The website provided by the Division of Insurance does not solve these problems.
- Some consumers have not been offered all discounts to which they are entitled, have had difficulty obtaining quotes from agents, and have received different quotes from different agents for the same insurers.
- Most Massachusetts consumers purchase insurance through an independent agent, yet most agents typically cannot or do not provide price quotes for more than a couple of carriers.
The reports recommends several moves to help improve the auto insurance market for consumers. These included improved rate proposals, the creation of an insurance Web site to provide side-by-side quotes for all insurers, elimination of penalties for leaving an insurance company early, prohibition of the collection of personal information not needed for rating and the introduction of legislation to ban the use of credit score in insurance ratemaking.
Source: Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office
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