The Texas Department of Insurance is the latest organization to enter the controversial arena of scrutinizing the use of credit scores by insurance companies. Many insurers use the scores to assess risk when underwriting auto and homeowners policies.In December, the department released its preliminary findings to the 79th Texas Legislature. And, because this study is the first of its kind to use actual policyholder data-as well as to undergo academic peer review-industry sources expect it may help to settle a contentious public policy debate.

"Previous (insurance scoring) studies have not gone to this level of detail," says Jim Hurley, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) in Austin. "They've only used ZIP code or Census data," he says.

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