Prior Approval of Auto Rates Does Not Benefit Consumers: Study

August 21, 2013

The prior-approval rate regulation of auto insurance is considered an unnecessary and ineffective approach, according to a new industry study.

Risk and insurance experts responding to the survey conducted by the Insurance Research Council held the view that prior-approval rate regulation is not necessary to achieve the rate adequacy, fairness and stability objectives that regulators typically seek. The study also revealed that prior approval of rates is not necessary to prevent insurers from earning excessive profits, as well. Most experts believe that auto insurance consumers fare no better in states that impose prior-approval rate regulation than in states that do not.

The report, “Expert Views of Auto Insurance Rate Regulation,” authored by Prof. Sharon Tennyson of Cornell University, compiles the views of 161 members and former members of the American Risk and Insurance Association (ARIA) who responded to the survey in early 2013. Over three-quarters of the respondents hold doctorate degrees, and nearly three-quarters are employed as university faculty.

Although most experts agree that promoting the affordability and availability of auto insurance are appropriate objectives for regulators, they express strong disagreement with many of the tools commonly used by regulators.

Most experts participating in the survey disagreed with statements that premium caps, premium subsidies, and restrictions on territory-based rating and the use of driver characteristics (such as gender and credit scores) are appropriate to promote auto insurance affordability. Respondents were most likely to believe that all or most rating and underwriting restrictions negatively affect the viability of insurance markets and are therefore inappropriate.

Consistent with these views, expert opinion strongly favors the idea that auto insurance prices should closely reflect a driver’s accident risk and be determined by competitive market forces.

Forty years ago, regulation of auto insurance rates in the U.S. was nearly universal. Some states required direct involvement of the state in determining the rates to be charged by all insurers, and others required the state’s prior approval of each individual insurer’s rates. Recent decades have seen a trend away from such restrictions.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, 37 states and the District of Columbia currently permit insurers to set at least some auto insurance rates without prior approval. Only 13 states continue to enforce prior-approval regulation of auto insurance rates. However, even in states which do not require state prior-approval, there are often regulations that restrict the role of market forces in determining rates.

Source: The Insurance Research Council

Topics Legislation Auto

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