Monday, December 21, 2009

Auto rates: Hundreds of millions of dollars saved by rate reviews in WA

Little-known fact, Part II: In order to raise rates, many insurers in Washington state must get approval from the state insurance commissioner's office. The agency's staffers look at the requested rate and the calculations behind it.

In the end, the rate our office approves is often lower than what the companies originally requested. The reduction is usually a small percentage -- over the last 10 years, the reductions in personal auto insurance requests have ranged from 1/10 of a percent to 2.8 percent -- but the amount shaved from premiums is considerable.

From 2000 through Oct. 31, 2009, these rate reviews and reductions shaved nearly $243 million from proposed car-insurance rates.

In the first 10 months of this year, for example, such rate reviews trimmed $26.1 million from proposed rates, a reduction of about 1 percent. In 2008, it was $44.4 million, or 1.7 percent.

Travel insurance advice for stranded travelers

With hundreds of flights canceled on the East Coast due to a major storm and a lot of people stranded while trying to travel for the holidays, it's probably a good time to highlight our travel-insurance primer.

And if you're a Washington resident and have questions or problems with a travel-insurance issue, call our consumer hotline at 1-800-562-6900. We don't sell insurance. We're the Washington state agency that regulates it.

Insurance news: theft charge in fraud case, health-care reform update, State Farm staying (mostly) in FL

But first, thanks to those of you who are reading.

Like most websites, we can tell how many people are reading, how they're getting to this blog, what keywords they search for, etc. And one thing that's become very clear is that people are reading this blog at work. Our numbers drop to near-nothing on weekends, then spike back up early Monday morning. (Apparently, insurance isn't big on people's minds when they sleep in on a Saturday morning.) The only significant exception to this seems to be storm-related posts, such as homeowners searching for information after a recent wind storm.

Onward:

Insurance Journal and The (Vancouver) Columbian both wrote about a Washington state insurance fraud case.

Lots of news about health-care reform in the runup to an expected Senate vote on Christmas Eve. The Wall Street Journal has an overview entitled "Historic Health Vote Looms," and the LA Times has a nuts-and-bolts comparison of the House and Senate bills, side by side.

Writing in the Washington Post, Robert Samuelson says the bill's passage "could be a nightmare for Obama," while the New York Times' Ross Douthat looks at the GOP's efforts to derail the bill. The New York Times also found some interesting carve-outs in the bills.

Lastly, the Wall Street Journal reports that State Farm is dropping it's plan to leave the property-insurance market in Florida. Instead, the company reached a deal with Florida's insurance regulator that allows the company to not renew 125,000 of its 810,000 Florida policies, and to boost rates on the remaining ones nearly 15 percent.