Washington — Gov. Marc Racicot, president of the American Insurance Association (AIA), made the case that the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) credit study is the latest proof that credit-based insurance scores are fair, objective and beneficial to a vast majority of consumers.  The American Insurance Association, Washington, represents approximately 350 major insurance companies that provide all lines of property/casualty insurance and write more than $123 billion annually in premiums. "There is no question that credit-based insurance scores are an efficient and accurate predictor of risk," stated Gov. Racicot. "Their use helps insurers refine their pricing to better reflect an individual's risk profile, resulting in most consumers paying less for insurance." In a statement to a U.S. House Subcommittee, Racicot responded to the FTC study, "Credit-Based Insurance Scores: Impact on Consumers of Automobile Insurance," (July 2007), which is the subject of a hearing today in the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  "It's a simple equation—the better your credit score, the lower your risk in the eyes of insurers— resulting in you paying less for your insurance," concluded Racicot. "The use of credit-based insurance scores has been in existence for more than a decade and has helped expand the availability of insurance in many markets, and increased competition among insurers."  Opponents still contend that credit scoring tends to raise premiums overall, that it doesn't correlate directly with risk and that it may serve as a proxy for racial and ethnic discrimination, because some minority groups have lower incomes and are more likely to have credit problems. The FTC's study firmly validates the insurance risk assessment capabilities and consumer benefits of credit-based insurance scores. Most people pay less for insurance because of insurer use of credit, which the FTC's study, and numerous state studies have confirmed. According to the FTC, scores are 'predictive of the number of claims consumers file and the total cost of those claims,' and 'scores also may make the process of granting and pricing insurance quicker and cheaper, cost savings that may be passed on to consumers in the form of lower premiums.'  Additionally, the FTC study directly refutes unfounded claims that insurers use credit-based insurance scores to 'unfairly target' minorities saying such scores 'have little effect as a "proxy" for membership in racial and ethnic groups in decisions related to insurance.' The FTC study shows there is no way to determine a person's race, ethnicity or economic status by simply looking at an insurance score.  In August, the Federal Reserve also issued a report to Congress that evaluated the use of credit scoring and its effects on the availability and affordability of credit. The Federal Reserve's findings tracked closely with those in the FTC's study. Both clearly established that credit is a reliable risk predictor, and that credit scoring has little to no effect as a proxy for race or ethnicity, reports the government body. In urer use of credit is governed not only by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which expressly allows for its use, but by dozens of state laws and regulations, including what is considered standard practice in the market, the National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) Model Act on Credit.  Introduced in 2002, the NCOIL model is law or regulation in 26 states, and it balances insurers' need to use an actuarially sound variable while enumerating certain consumer rights and protections, including not having credit be the sole determining factor for coverage or non-renewal, or allowing an exemption to insurer use of credit due to "special life circumstances" for things such as the death of a spouse or an unexpected medical emergency. The law also requires insurers to re-rate customers with corrected credit reports, notify applicants that credit information is being used in setting rates and let customers know if their credit information results in an adverse action—a higher premium, for example, or denial of coverage. It also is designed to protect consumers' privacy.  Sources: PR Newswire, INN archives  

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