Site visitors flows alongside I-90 as a Metra suburban commuter practice strikes alongside an elevated observe in Chicago on March 31, 2021. Auto insurers are raking in pandemic income regardless of decrease prices due to much less driving.Shafkat Anowar/AP Photographs
Moments of disaster are clarifying. Within the first months of the pandemic, most of us, understanding we had been all on this collectively, did our half sheltering in place and following different public well being suggestions. However some corporations, together with automobile insurers, took the chance to revenue at others’ expense.When so many people stopped commuting in the course of the first 12 months of the pandemic, the dangers of driving plummeted; fewer automobiles on the highway and fewer miles pushed meant fewer automobile crashes and fewer insurance coverage claims filed. However automobile insurance coverage charges didn’t go down in proportion. New information collected and printed by the Illinois Division of Insurance coverage inform the story: the highest 4 automobile insurance coverage corporations by Illinois market share State Farm, Geico, Progressive and Allstate made roughly $500 million extra in 2020 than they might have wanted to take care of 2019 revenue ranges. Their earnings from premiums stayed comparatively regular, however prices had been means, means down.
Responding to public stress, the businesses collectively returned round $220 million to clients in 2020. However these 4 corporations alone nonetheless raked in a $280 million pandemic windfall. An earlier evaluation by the Shopper Federation of America, which reviewed all Illinois automobile insurance coverage corporations, estimated the insurers’ whole post-refund Illinois windfall at $896 million, or $99 per coverage holder on common. Whereas reaping exorbitant pandemic income, Illinois’ main insurance coverage corporations rewarded prime executives with beneficiant bonuses. For instance, Bloomington-based State Farm dramatically raised CEO Michael Tipsord’s annual bonuses from $8.3 million in 2019 to $18.1 million in 2020 and $22.4 million in 2021. Enterprise was good. Now, as customers wrestle with excessive vitality costs and the sharpest inflation in a long time, insurance coverage corporations are transferring swiftly to impose double-digit price hikes. Allstate has already executed that, costing the common buyer greater than $200 per 12 months, whereas promising to lift charges even additional this 12 months. State Farm has already imposed back-to-back will increase simply months aside. Whereas the insurers’ actions are disappointing, what’s extra disappointing is that buyers in Illinois don’t have any recourse. That is as a result of Illinois has among the many weakest insurance coverage client safety legal guidelines within the nation. Like all states besides New Hampshire, Illinois requires each automobile proprietor to purchase automobile insurance coverage. However most states all however two give the federal government the facility to reject or modify automobile insurance coverage price hikes. These two states? Wyoming and Illinois. Illinois legislation does not even prohibit “extreme” charges, nor does it place limits on unfairly basing charges on issues that don’t have anything to do with secure driving, resembling credit score scores and ZIP codes.In states with stronger protections, customers fared higher via the pandemic. California regulators, for instance, ordered insurance coverage corporations to “shut the hole” after preliminary pandemic rebates fell quick one thing Illinois regulators aren’t empowered to do. In 2021, State Farm introduced that it was sending its California clients an extra $400 million in pandemic refunds “resulting from higher than anticipated claims outcomes.”Illinois residents deserve no much less. It is time for Illinois to catch as much as the remainder of the nation by enacting primary automobile insurance coverage client protections. That will not be straightforward: For years, Illinois-based insurance coverage giants State Farm and Allstate have used their energy in Springfield to bat away legislative makes an attempt to implement client protections.
Opinion This WeekA weekly overview of opinions, evaluation and commentary on points affecting Chicago, Illinois and our nation by exterior contributors, Solar-Instances readers and the CST Editorial Board.
However given the rising prices of gasoline, meals and utility payments, state legislators are searching for methods to assist their constituents. A technique to do this could be to offer the Division of Insurance coverage instruments to guard automobile insurance coverage clients like the facility to reject or modify price hikes and finish the unfair observe of utilizing non-driving components to set charges. Insurance coverage is about sharing threat as broadly as doable; similar to responding to the pandemic, we’re all on this collectively. Our expertise over the previous two years makes clear that Illinois can and will do extra to make sure insurance coverage corporations deal with customers pretty.Abe Scarr is the director of Illinois Public Curiosity Analysis Group (PIRG). The Solar-Instances welcomes letters to the editor and op-eds. Try our tips.