Consumer Federation Reports Excessive Premium Charges By Insurance Industry

A report just released by the Consumer Federation of America estimated that the average family in the U.S. has been overcharged for auto and home insurance over the last four years because companies have been charging excessive premiums and paying out proportionately less in claims.

The insurance industry reaped record profits in 2004 and 2005, and profits in 2006 rose to unprecedented heights. Profits in 2007 may also be recordbreaking. The CFA reported that the average percentage of premium payments paid back to cover losses has dramatically declined over the last 20 years – from a high of 70 percent to 54.6 percent last year – translating into a huge loss in the value of insurance to consumers. Insurers, on the other hand, had net income of $65 billion last year. Insurers thus paid out 34 percent of premiums to cover property losses – a figure that was topped in this decade only by the record low 27.7 percent loss ratio in 2004.

Regardless what type of insurance coverage is being discussed, insurers routinely claim that their losses are mounting because of unscrupulous lawyers, frivolous claims, and unexpected natural disasters. Such claims are then used to foment tort reform and explain away premium increases, neither of which are justified when the true loss experience of the insurer is examined. The critical reader is encouraged when hearing such claims by insurers to go to the data. More than likely it will be the case that the insurer’s decision to increase premiums will not be justified by the loss history. Moreover, the insurer will likely be sitting on extraordinary reserves and profits.

Sources: Dallas Morning News 1/10/08; www.consumerfed.org