NAIC To Revisit Credit Scoring

Mar 18, 2009

National Underwriter--March 17, 2009


SAN DIEGO – The National Association of Insurance Commissioners Executive Committee has voted to revisit the controversial issue of insurers’ use of consumers’ credit information to determine their rates.

At the NAIC’s Spring Meeting here, the group approved permission for the Property-Casualty Committee and the Market Regulation and Consumer Affairs Committee to combine and take testimony on the issue of credit scoring.

An ongoing hot button issue that has previously been examined by the NAIC, credit scoring is opposed by those who say it unfairly penalizes lower income and minority groups and fails to factor in special circumstances, such as a major medical expense that impacts a credit record.

Insurers argue that it is an actuarially sound predictor and to rule it out would skew rates and penalize good risks in the lower economic and minority communities.

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, NAIC’s secretary-treasurer, signaled a day earlier that such a hearing was in the works.

At the Consumer Liaison meeting Sunday, Mr. McCarty said he was working with the chairs of the two committees to set up a joint hearing to examine how insurers’ use of credit is affecting consumers in today’s economic environment.

However, the two panels needed approval from the Executive Committee to pursue such a hearing.

Market Regulation Committee Chair and Oklahoma Commissioner Kim Holland told the Executive Committee yesterday that the joint hearing would examine what credit information is used, how it is used, and the impact on policyholders.

She said she understood the issue is the subject of debate, but said it is appropriate to raise the issue to see how credit information is used in the current economic environment.

She added it is useful to hold a hearing so the NAIC has its own information on credit scoring rather than relying on previously published reports.

Speaking on behalf of the Property-Casualty Committee, Commissioner McCarty said consumer groups are prepared to testify at the hearing to challenge what they believe are myths used to support the use of credit scoring.

He added the industry is also eager to participate to make its points on the issue.

Although all present members of the Executive Committee approved the hearing request, some members expressed apprehension.

Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Tom Sullivan, for example, questioned what the “end game” of such a hearing would be, and stated, “I’m skeptical going in.”

He said he shares the concern of how credit information is used in today’s economy, but he questioned how exactly the two committees planned to get results.

Commissioners McCarty and Holland stated there is no end game beyond gathering information on the issue, and Commissioner McCarty added it may turn out the committees will be satisfied with the methods used by insurers in the current economy.

Dave Snyder, vice president and assistant general counsel for the American Insurance Association (AIA) said after the previous day’s Consumer Liaison meeting that he looks forward to again proving that the use of credit information is a fair and accurate indicator of risk. He noted the NAIC has held hearings on the matter before.

Deirdre Manna, vice president of industry, regulatory and political affairs for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), said before the Executive Committee meeting that she was concerned about two separate NAIC committees looking into the issue at the same time.

Commissioners Holland and McCarty said the committees are holding a joint hearing in recognition of their equal concern and relevance. They indicated the hearing would likely take place in April.