State To Post Insurance Company Conduct On Agency Web Site
Hartford (AP) — The state's Insurance Department will soon start posting information on its Web site on how insurers treat their customers and the fines they pay for violating state law.
The disclosures, slated to start appearing on the department's site in early 2008, are intended to bring transparency to an industry regulation considered by some to be obtuse.
The information will come from reviews by the Insurance Department's market conduct division, which determines if insurers properly calculate premiums and send policy renewal notices in time for customers to seek new policies.
The unit also determines whether insurers pay claims in legal time limits and include interest on late payments. It also reviews marketing and sales practices, the handling of customer complaints and other activities.
Daniel Harrigan, the division's head, said its purpose is to track down trouble.
“Let's see if there are problems,” he said. “Let's not wait for complaints to come in.”
Insurance Commissioner Thomas R. Sullivan said posting results on the agency's Web site will make the department more consumer-friendly and provide easier access to market conduct information.
Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group and a frequent critic of the department over the years, welcomed the posting of the information.
“This is a very positive step in providing consumers and the public with tools they need to evaluate insurance companies' behavior,” he said.
However, some critics say state market conduct exams are too little, too late.
“My perception is market conduct exams don't ask the right questions,” said J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America.
Coming up with small violations misses the real problem, he said.
“It's the big scams that are really hurting,” Hunter said.
Through the third week of December, Connecticut's market conduct fines on 83 companies took in $1.1 million. The state does not track how much is refunded by insurers to customers.
Connecticut's fines are smaller than those imposed by other states. New York, for example, sets fines of between $300,000 and $500,000.
Sullivan said the Insurance Department will ask the General Assembly in 2008 to increase fines. He did not say how much they will request, but said the fines “should have some teeth to them.”