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Is credit-based insurance a sheep in wolf’s clothing?

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Posted: 11 am ET

What do your credit score, debt utilization ratio, the quality of your credit cards, and your student loan and mortgage history have to do with your homeowners and auto insurance rates?

Plenty -- at least if you insure through a company that uses credit-based insurance scoring.

Insurance companies commonly consider the above personal financial information and more to determine your credit-based insurance score (not to be confused with your credit score) prior to underwriting your policy and establishing your rates.

The insurance companies maintain that the credit-based insurance score is a fair, accurate and nondiscriminatory way to determine the likelihood that you will file a claim. They say the purpose of the score is not to determine your ability to pay your premiums, but instead to predict your loss ratio, which is the difference between what you're likely to pay in premiums versus what you're likely to cost the company in claims. In theory, the better you handle your finances, the less you're likely to cost them as a customer.

Consumer and civil rights groups want the practice banned, calling credit-based insurance scoring patently unfair and tantamount to redlining, in which individuals were discriminated against based on race and income. The Consumer Federation of America points out that some consumers face higher insurance rates due to dings to their credit scores that were beyond their control, typically caused by job loss or medical bills.

The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, which has been debating the issue of credit-based insurance scoring, recently received an earful from the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, or NAMIC. In a letter to committee chiefs, NAMIC characterized credit-based insurance scoring as an underappreciated sheep in wolf's clothing:

"T)he use of insurance scores encourages competition and enables insurers to offer coverage to more consumers at a fairer price. Furthermore, consumers benefit from insurance scoring because it keeps the insurance marketplace competitive, resulting in lower prices, better service, and more product choices."

Fair or foul? Wolf or sheep?

What's your call?

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2 Comments
cynthia
May 26, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Get you a lawyer let them scan the papper then interpet for the payee then the insurance guy says wanna sign, all I have to say talk to the lawyer, if that don't work and you see a pointy ear come out of the mask well asume you make a run for it or the wolf can talk to my hand because my ears are closed to the matter.

Mike Killian
May 26, 2010 at 9:54 am

Interesting article. I remember years ago reading that insurers felt those with low credit scores were poorer risks and more apt to have an accident. As a bankruptcy counselor of many years, I find this as the same BS as the credit card industry saying the new bankruptcy law was because the consumer needing bankruptcy is simply irresponsible. It simply is not necessarily so.