A national consumer group says state insurance departments vary in the quality of the information they provide consumers online, with only six states doing an excellent job.
State insurance department websites in 6 states were found to be “excellent” in the auto and homeowner insurance information they provide while those in 18 states were deemed to be “inadequate” by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).
The study, State Insurance Department Websites: A Consumer Assessment, found considerable differences in the usefulness of information such as the rates and practices of individual insurance companies.
The report found that California, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah have “excellent” websites that have complete, up-to-date information that is easy for consumers to use. The study said that consumers accessing these websites could easily find current price, complaint and solvency information and could find key information on how to get the best claim settlements as well.
But the report also concluded that 18 states have websites that are inadequate. These websites lacked important aspects of information about purchase and claims settlement decisions in auto and home insurance.
“At a time when consumers are under increasing financial pressure, state insurance departments can do their part by making available current information about the rates, solvency, and complaints of individual insurers as well as tips for consumers to use to secure fairer and faster claims settlements,” said J. Robert Hunter, CFA’s director of insurance and former Texas insurance commissioner.
The CFA ratings of websites in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are:
Excellent (6 states): California, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.
Good (12 states): Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maine Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Wisconsin.
Fair (15 states): District of Columbia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington.
Inadequate (18 states): Alabama, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Hunter said states should more widely publicize the availability of their websites and related information.
“States with inadequate websites do not have to reinvent the wheel,” noted Hunter. “They need only use the excellent sites already in use by other states as a guide for improving their own sites,” he added.
CFA said it is sending the report to all state insurance departments with a personal letter urging the 45 states whose websites are not yet excellent to make improvements.
By utilizing information on the best state websites, consumers can potentially save hundreds of dollars a year in lower premiums and avoid serious problems settling claims, according to CFA.
“The best state websites contain far and away the most objective and useful information available to consumers,” noted Stephen Brobeck, CFA’s Executive Director. “Only state insurance departments have the expertise and resources to provide up-to-date information about individual insurers,” he added.
The full report is available at: http://www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/state_insurance_websites.pdf
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