With the constant coverage of health care reform, it’s probably no surprise consumers have a negative perception of the health insurance industry right now. As INN reported last week, results of a poll conducted by Harris Interactive finds health carriers are third in line behind tobacco and oil companies as industries seen publicly as doing a bad job.

Property/casualty insurers, though, can smile a little because an overwhelming majority of consumers with auto and homeowners insurance are satisfied with their insurance companies, according to a public opinion study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC).

Ninety-one percent of respondents with auto insurance said that they were either very satisfied (61%) or fairly satisfied (30%) with their current auto insurer. The study also found that most consumers are satisfied with the experience of shopping for auto insurance. Among respondents who had shopped for auto insurance in the previous 12 months, three of four respondents said they were very satisfied (24%) or fairly satisfied (51%) with the overall experience. Sixty-nine percent of respondents were very or fairly satisfied with the range of products and price options they found.

Eighty-nine percent of homeowners said that they were either very satisfied (56%) or fairly satisfied (33%) with their homeowners insurance company.

Claims, though, is a different story. A study earlier this month shows consumers aren't exactly ecstatic with homeowners insurers' claims service these days. The Consumer Reports survey, which polled 10,700 readers about their satisfaction with their homeowners insurance claims service in the last few years, high-quality insurance can be costly and difficult to get.

The survey singled out some of the insurers receiving high and low marks. Respondents rated Amica Mutual Group, USAA Group and the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. higher for claims satisfaction than most other insurers. But while customers are pleased with their service levels, all three insurers, traditionally, aren't necessarily accessible to the masses. USAA homeowners insurance is available only to those with U.S. military connections; Chubb markets itself as a high-end insurer; and Amica traditionally only sold to those referred by policyholders, a process the company says is no longer the case.

Large insurers also saw some low marks. Thirty-five percent of Allstate Insurance Group clients reported having problems, which contrasts with 14% who reported issues with Amica. Both Allstate and Travelers Insurance Cos. were also among the lower-rated groups overall. Additionally, 21% of respondents said they faced delays having claims paid, with Amica and USAA receiving better marks than most.

Despite the gloom, the survey did reveal a few rays of light for insurers. Fifty-three percent of respondents who switched companies in the past few years, especially those with decent credit and claims history, said they found better premiums with their new carrier.

Overall, 73% of respondents were highly satisfied with their current carrier. That compares with a satisfaction rate of 77% in 2003, the last time Consumer Reports published ratings of homeowners insurance. Only 5% indicated their claims were rejected, and 11% said they received too little payment for their claims. The remaining 84% got what they expected with the settlement of their claims.

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