OAIN: Maryland Senators Take Wait-and-See Stance on Forced Insurance Bundling

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Members of the Senate Finance Committee effectively killed a bill that would have stopped insurers from non-renewing policies if their holders don't have multiline policies, according to OAIN

Unconvinced by a fellow lawmaker’s wary take on “forced bundling,” senators in Maryland killed legislation this week that would have barred the practice, which insurers are increasingly using to require that policyholders hold different types of policies with them or face non-renewal of their coverage, reports Online Auto Insurance News.

Delegate Tom Hucker (D-Montgomery County) sponsored HB 1105, which hit a roadblock when the Senate Finance Committee voted 7-2 vote earlier this week to report it unfavorably; the vote effectively stops the proposal from reaching the Senate floor for consideration. The House had approved the legislation unanimously.

During a March 29 committee hearing on the bill, Hucker said forced bundling led to the expulsion of thousands of Allstate customers in North Carolina and Arkansas and warned committee members that carriers in Maryland could begin doing the same, reports OAIN.

Committee members apparently sided with the stance of the bill’s opponents, who also said there is uncertainty about the general effect of forced bundling. During the hearing, Jack Andryszak, an industry advocate with the American Insurance Association, said there are enough affordable car insurance quotes and affordable homeowners insurance quotes in the market to give customers fallback options if an insurer cuts them off.

“The market is good,” he said at the hearing. “We don’t have any evidence of a problem here.”

The proposal, Hucker said, was meant to “head off the threat” of insurers requiring forced bundling. Peter Killough, a state consumer advocate, called forced bundling “illegal and discriminatory.”

But the legislation’s opponents said Maryland senators would be hasty to make a law to prohibit a practice they believe has not fully played out in other states or showed widespread damage to consumers.

“We’re not aware of extensive abuse of this process,” Lawrence Richardson Jr., a State Farm representative, said at the March hearing. He asked that Maryland legislators “defer this issue until we see what, if anything, is determined by” a review by the state Legislature in North Carolina about forced bundling there that is expected to be completed in late 2012 or early 2013.

Source: http://mlis.state.md.us/

Bundling is common when customers are offered discounts to hold multiline policies under one carrier, but forced bundling is often a product of larger insurers simply trying to re-prioritize, according to other industry experts.

Recently, most insurers "have been looking at the distribution of properties they insure with an eye to what’s happened recently and what’s likely to happen,” Steve Weisbart, vice president and chief economist at the Insurance Information Institute (III), said in a phone interview with OAIN in December.

Allstate wanted to limit its exposure to future financial hardship in areas stricken by weather-related disasters in 2011, he said, most likely leading to its decision to require some North Carolina and Arkansas residents to buy vehicle along with residential coverage.

“They’re asking, ‘Do we have too much concentration of value in one area?’ And if the answer is yes, they’re going to at least review exposure with an eye to nonrenewal of some risks,” Weisbert said.

For information about the insurance industry, head to http://www.onlineautoinsurance.com/affordable/ for access to informative resource pages and an easy-to-use quote-comparison generator.

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Charles Nguyen
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