NAIC Holds Action On Property Loss Databases

By Steve Tuckey

NU Online News Service, March 16, 12:16 p.m. EST, Salt Lake City, Utah?The National Association of Insurance Commissioners meeting here has decided to hold off developing regulations governing insurers’ controversial use of property claims loss history databases.[@@]

Regulators said they would delay drafting anything to better coordinate NAIC efforts with state lawmakers exploring the same issue.

In recent years, insurers’ use of databases providing property loss history records on homes has been increasing. Firms providing the information include the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE), operated by ChoicePoint, and A Plus run by the Insurance Services Office.

Critics complain that simple policyholder inquiries that are logged can result in adverse underwriting decisions, and that policyholders are afraid to make claims for fear of damaging their records.

Oregon Administrator Joel Ario told the Market Regulation D Committee that consumer complaints on the issue have soared in recent years. As a result, his department is developing a homeowners bill of rights for his State Legislature.

The Oregon measure, Mr. Ario said yesterday, “will be our marquee piece of legislation this year.”

For the past year, the National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) has been developing a model law to regulate use of property loss history and could finalize one at its summer meeting in July.

By the time of the next NAIC meeting in June, committee members said they hope to have a better sense of the issues that would be incorporated in any model regulation. They would then have the option of working with NCOIL on a joint basis, or going their own way if they were not happy with the state lawmakers’ work product.

Property-casualty insurance representatives urged the regulators to go slow in the development of a new regulation.

American Insurance Association Vice President Dave Snyder said no action should be taken until a cost-benefit analysis is undertaken.

“I think it would be wise if you would take a closer look at these complaints and see if any new regulation would be the answer to them,” he said.

Don Cleasby, of the Property-Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), said that with so many states looking at the issue, some uniformity would be welcome. But he urged regulators to work with NCOIL first.

Funded consumer representative Birny Birnbaum, executive director for the Austin, Texas-based Center for Economic Justice, said it would be a mistake to let NCOIL take the lead on the issue, as it did with the development of a model credit scoring law governing insurers’ use of applicants credit records to rate them as insurance risks.

He derided the NCOIL proposed model as one developed to placate an industry in which consumer interests were not taken into account.

The final issue holding up approval of the NCOIL model is how to treat those claims that did not result in any payment. Insurers claim they are valid to use in the underwriting process, while others claim they should not be recorded.