Monday, 1 March 2010

Welcome to 2010. Look around the states. Yes, they all have different perils for drivers to face. For some, it's the weather with snow and ice making driving dangerous during winter. In others, it's hurricanes and tornados. But leaving aside all the different types of peril, there's one big problem for everyone with a vehicle on the road. All the major insurers are pressing for rate hikes. State Farm, Allstate and Geico have been leading the charge. And we are not just talking hikes of one or two percent. In Florida, for example, State Farm is raising rates by an average of 9.2%, while Allstate went for a shock-and-awe average of 16%. Even though the recession is slowly easing, the US is facing the highest levels of unemployment seen for decades. Rate increases like these hurt everyone struggling to make ends meet. Is this just gouging by the insurers? Like the Wall Street bankers, are they only interested in their bonuses? Should we think of insurance companies as the new carpetbaggers, using political influence to their own crooked ends? Just why are the insurers making such egregious demands for more money when most of us are down and out?

Lining up the questions like this gives little chance of answers favorable to the insurers. Does that make us biased? Hell, yes! Increases like this when the economy is on the bottom will only lead to more people driving without insurance. As more drop out of the legal framework, the premiums rise for the rest of us. The costs stay the same. They are just divided among fewer insured drivers. Worse, we now have to add additional uninsured and underinsured coverage. It costs more for those who want to stay legal on the road. Are there any justifications for these increases? Well, if you ask a talking-head for the insurance industry, the blame gets spread around. We start off with the rise in the cost of medical treatment. It seems the healthcare services have all been hiking their charges to treat those injured in traffic accidents. Evidence? Well, following very public contract disputes in California and Connecticut, we now have the stand-off between United Healthcare and Continuum Health Partners in New York. The hospitals want increases. The insurer is asking for cuts of between 7 and 10%. In these circumstances, the insurers are actually standing up for their policy holders. If healthcare costs can be reduced or held stable, premiums can also be stabilized.

The really big problem, however, is whether the insurers can pay all the claims we make. The insurers have low capital reserves. Why are the reserves so low? Well, it's back to the recession. When the insurers collect in the premiums, the money is invested until it's needed to pay out the claims. Just as our 401k investments have taken a big hit, the insurers suddenly found their investments had lost value. Now, the state Insurance Departments are insisting the capital be replaced. In some states, the insurers have agreed to reduce the number of people they insure. In the rest, the premiums are to rise. This means, no matter where you live, it's going to be harder to find cheap auto insurance. Harder does not mean impossible. Using the search engine on this site, you can still find cheap car insurance, but you may have to look more carefully at the discounts on offer and accept a higher deductible. This may not all be the fault of the insurers, but it sure feels like it.

Posted by Posted by roomen insurance at 22:59
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