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Support Heats Up for Tying Insurance Rate to Driver Record

Oct 24, 2007

Legislation filed

BOSTON - Support has been growing in the Legislature for a bill that aims to require auto insurers to focus on consumers' driving records when making underwriting and price decisions.

Supporters of the bill, which was filed on Wednesday, say nearly 25 senators and 50 representatives have endorsed the proposal, which was filed in reaction to state Insurance Commissioner Nonnie Burnes' plan to introduce more competition into the state's auto insurance market.

Supporters said the bill includes just minor changes to regulations that Burnes recently crafted; her regulations will allow insurers to submit rates for her approval separately, replacing the current system in which the commissioner approves one standard set of rates for all insurers each year.

But Burnes said the bill would thwart competition before the new system, which would take effect next year, can even start. "It would basically eviscerate the regulation," Burnes said. "We'd have to go back to the drawing board."

The bill would require insurers to focus primarily on a consumer's driving record when setting rates, and would prevent credit scores and other socioeconomic factors from being considered. It would also revive the state attorney general's role as a voice for consumers in the rate-setting process.

"We need to make sure there are adequate rules in place to protect consumers," said Deirdre Cummings, legislative director at the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group.

Burnes recently decided not to allow insurers to use credit scores when setting rates in the new system, and her proposal has always included a ban on certain socioeconomic factors. But supporters of the new bill say legislation would make such policies harder to change.

"Credit scoring does not fairly allocate the risk for an automobile," said Jim Slattery, an insurance agent in Abington who supports the bill. "All kinds of people would be penalized as a result of credit scoring."

The bill already has the support of a majority in the Senate. But it faces a tougher battle in the House, where House Speaker Sal DiMasi and Ronald Mariano, co-chairman of the financial services committee, support Burnes' regulations.

Originally published by Patriot Ledger staff and news services.

(c) 2007 Patriot Ledger, The; Quincy, Mass.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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