Senator Lucio's Letterhead

CAPITOL UPDATE FROM SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 16, 2007
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez , Press Secretary
Phone: (512) 463-0385

One-Stop-Shop for Auto and Home Insurance Policies

Texans may get a "one-stop-shop" offering them homeowners and automobile insurance information with just a click of the mouse.

I recently filed Senate Bill 611 that would offer people the ability to log onto a website and view a listing of each insurer writing residential property and automobile insurance in this state.

An information vacuum has occurred since the Legislature and the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) allowed carriers to offer different homeowners insurance policies

Since coverage levels vary so greatly between the different policies, policyholders cannot shop based on price alone.

Senate Bill 611 directs TDI and the Office of Public Insurance Counsel (OPIC) to develop this website allowing consumers to easily make side-by-side comparisons of different policies, rates charged, the percentage by which rates have fallen or risen in the past three years, as well as companies' complaint data, enforcement actions, penalties, financial ratings and other relevant information.

All this information will help consumers choose the insurance company and the coverage that best meets their insurance needs.

Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch, a statewide consumer advocacy and research organization actively involved with insurance issues, said that "this legislation will give homeowners greater ability to shop the insurance market. Homeowners need as much information as possible so that they can make smart and informed decisions."

Information already published by TDI and OPIC should be gathered in one convenient place and publicized widely in order to help consumers shop the market.

As more people gain access to the Internet, and as we expand telecommunication services to rural and remote areas of the state, this bill can facilitate what is currently one of the most complex financial services to decipher and decide upon. If we require drivers to buy auto insurance and homebuyers to insure their properties, then we should simplify the insurance seeking process and make it more accessible. An informed consumer is a wiser shopper.

The proposed web site would include basic information, such as the insurer's full name, address, phone and fax numbers and even email if available.

Whether an insurer uses credit scoring in underwriting would also be available on this site, as well as a link to the insurer's credit model or a link explaining how to request the credit model. Also available would be an insurer's financial rating and an explanation of the meaning and importance of the rating. I would venture to say that almost any question a person may have regarding these two types of insurance would be found on the website, and all would be provided at no cost to the consumer.

Insurers would have to report quarterly with the Commissioner of Insurance any changes in losses, premiums and market share since Jan. 1, 1993. Of course the Commissioner would in turn report to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House and the Legislature on market share, profits and losses, and other facets of the industry that affect each insurer.

As Mr. Winslow explains, "This legislation will go a long way toward making our insurance market more transparent for consumers by giving them tools they need to make the best choices for their families."

As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.

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