The Shocking Secret About How Your Car Insurance Rate Gets Set

The Shocking Secret About How Your Car Insurance Rate Gets Set

iStockphoto
By Yuval Rosenberg

Most drivers probably know that if they get into an accident, their insurance rates are also likely to take a hit. But a new analysis by Consumer Reports finds that your car insurance premiums are increasingly based on factors such as your credit score that are unrelated to your driving record.

How well you drive may actually have little connection to how much you pay for insurance, the consumer group found.

In a two-year investigation, Consumer Reports analyzed more than 2 billion insurance price quotes obtained from more than 700 insurers across the country. It found that in many states a bad credit history will drive up your insurance premiums more than a drunk driving conviction.

“What we found is that behind the rate quotes is a pricing process that judges you less on driving habits and increasingly on socioeconomic factors,” the consumer organization reports. “These include your credit history, whether you use department-store or bank credit cards, and even your TV provider. Those measures are then used in confidential and often confounding scoring algorithms.”

Consumer Reports says it found that most car insurance companies use about 30 elements of the nearly 130 available in a credit report to construct their own secret score for policyholders, and that credit scores could have more of an impact on premiums than any other factor. Drivers with the best credit scores were charged up to $526 less than similar drivers with only “good” scores, depending on where they lived. Only three states — California, Hawaii and Massachusetts — prohibit insurers from factoring in credit scores when setting prices.

Drivers are legally required to carry car insurance, but the lack of pricing transparency makes it harder for them to make informed decisions about which policy to buy. “Because insurance companies are under no obligation to tell you what score they have cooked up for you, you have no idea whether you have a halo over your head or a bull’s-eye on your back for a price increase,” Consumer Reports says.

Industry advertising that promotes special discounts, such as for bundling home and car insurance, only muddles the purchasing process because those special deals don’t actually save people much money, Consumer Reports found.

The organization says it’s high time for truth in car insurance, and it’s asking consumers to sign a petition demanding that insurers -- and the state regulators who oversee them -- use price-setting practices that are tied to more meaningful factors, like driving records. It is also asking consumers to tweet the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, @NAIC_News, and tell them to “Price me by how I drive, not by who you think I am! #FixCarInsurance.”

For more information on state-by-state insurance premiums, or to sign the Consumer Reports petition, go to ConsumerReports.org/FixCarinsurance.

Top Reads From The Fiscal Times:

Chart of the Week: Lowering Medicare Drug Prices

A growing number of patients are being denied access to newer oral chemotherapy drugs for cancer pills with annual price tags of more than $75,000.
iStockphoto
By Michael Rainey

The U.S. could save billions of dollars a year if Medicare were empowered to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies, according to a paper published by JAMA Internal Medicine earlier this week. Researchers compared the prices of the top 50 oral drugs in Medicare Part D to the prices for the same drugs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which negotiates its own prices and uses a national formulary. They found that Medicare’s total spending was much higher than it would have been with VA pricing.

In 2016, for example, Medicare Part D spent $32.5 billion on the top 50 drugs but would have spent $18 billion if VA prices were in effect – or roughly 45 percent less. And the savings would likely be larger still, Axios’s Bob Herman said, since the study did not consider high-cost injectable drugs such as insulin.  

Why Craft Brewers Are Crying in Their Beer

		<p>The $85 billion in spending cuts is just $10 million more than what Americans spent on beer in 2011.</p>
Scott Olson/Getty Images
By Michael Rainey

It may be small beer compared to the problems faced by unemployed federal workers and the growing cost for the overall economy, but the ongoing government shutdown is putting a serious crimp in the craft brewing industry. Small-batch brewers tend to produce new products on a regular basis, The Wall Street Journal’s Ruth Simon says, but each new formulation and product label needs to be approved by the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which is currently closed. So it looks like you’ll have to wait a while to try the new version of Hemperor HPA from Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing, a hoppy brew that will include hemp seeds once the shutdown is over.

Number of the Day: $30 Billion

Benis Arapovic/GraphicStock
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The amount spent on medical marketing reached $30 billion in 2016, up from $18 billion in 1997, according to a new analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and highlighted by the Associated Press. The number of advertisements for prescription drugs appearing on television, newspapers, websites and elsewhere totaled 5 million in one year, accounting for $6 billion in marketing spending. Direct-to-consumer marketing grew the fastest, rising from $2 billion, or 12 percent of total marketing, to nearly $10 billion, or a third of spending. “Marketing drives more treatments, more testing” that patients don’t always need, Dr. Steven Woloshin, a Dartmouth College health policy expert and co-author of the study, told the AP.

70% of Registered Voters Want a Compromise to End the Shutdown

National Zoo closed in due to the partial government shutdown in Washington
KEVIN LAMARQUE
By The Fiscal Times Staff

An overwhelming majority of registered voters say they want the president and Congress to “compromise to avoid prolonging the government shutdown” in a new The Hill-HarrisX poll. Seven in ten respondents said they preferred the parties reach some sort of deal to end the standoff, while 30 percent said it was more important to stick to principles, even if it means keeping parts of the government shutdown. Voters who “strongly approve” of Trump (a slim 21 percent of respondents) favored him sticking to his principles over the wall by a narrow 54 percent-46 percent margin. Voters who “somewhat approve” of the president favored a compromise solution by a 70-30 margin. Among Republicans overall, 61 percent said they wanted a compromise.

The survey of 1,000 registered voters was conducted January 5 and 6 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.