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Worried About Washington's Credit Score Change?
The Office of the Insurance Commissioner announces emergency ruling that may impact your rates.
In March of 2021, Mr. Kreidler issued an emergency mandate, banning the use of credit scoring by insurance companies for Home, Auto, and Renters Insurance policies effective June 20th, 2021.
You may have seen this on the news, with some concerning statements about racial inequality, in recent weeks. Is there racial inequality? Honestly, we don't know. We do know that just because a system has been used for approximately 20 years and by 47 states doesn't mean we should blindly follow. It also doesn't mean we remove this 20 year old system in just 60 days with no thought to consumers in our state. (see our opinion below)
This emergency mandate, which was tied to COVID-related concerns, means that your home (or renters) and auto insurance rates are very likely about to change. Well, in fact, some may go up significantly and some may go down. The insurance industry did not ask for this, and many of us believe it will harm more Washingtonians than it will help. We don't know how this will all turn out unless the consumers of Washington get involved and let their voices be heard.
Worried about your insurance rates?
Why does my credit score matter to insurance companies?
Approximately 20 years ago, insurance companies began using your credit score as one of the many factors in determining the amount of discount they can provide you or possibly surcharge you. Consideration of credit-based insurance scores to predict the likelihood of future claims has been authorized in Washington State (as well as 46 other states) due to its proven effectiveness to help accurately structure insurance policy rates. They do this because they are able to prove a correlation between credit history and claims frequency.
The Insurance Commissioner, nor anyone else, is disputing the credit score correlation. 47 States currently use credit score in their rating models. Data also shows that Washington State has the third-highest credit scores in the country. See the list here
What is an insurance score?
Many Insurance Companies, most of the ones we write with, use what is referred to as an "insurance score". What this means is your credit score is combined with multiple other factors to determine your rate. Those factors determine if you are surcharged off "base rate" or "discounted" off base rate. Other factors, besides credit score, that affect your insurance score would include length of time insured, age, driving activity, how often you change insurance carriers, and much more.
Mr. Kreidler removed the industry's ability to provide those discounts or surcharges which will likely cause a dramatic shift in premium for most of Washington. We'd like to reiterate that the carriers did not ask for this, did not want it, and attempted to stop the order so a more in-depth, organized solution could be reached. In that solution, the insurance industry wanted to take care of as many Washingtonians as possible.
Our Concerns with the Mandate
As independent insurance agents, we work for you, the insurance consumer. If Mr. Kreidler wants to really know how to help the consumer, he should poll the independent insurance agents of Washington state! That would be a fantastic way to see both sides of the story - we'd have lots of ideas for his office to check out. In the end, our goal is to help clients navigate the web of insurance. Here are some of our concerns with this mandate:
- It unfairly punishes people who have worked their whole lives to maintain good credit. Those with good credit may see substantial increases.
- It does not allow for proper investigative time.
- It sets a very dangerous precedent that government officials can circumvent the legislative process by creating “emergency mandates”. This issue was already being addressed by the legislative system and plans were underway to come to a resolution.
- It is unknown if it will even help the people that it is designed to help. The Commissioner is operating under some assumptions regarding the impact of COVID on credit score. The biggest one being, the assumption that everyone who has been affected by COVID now has poor credit. This concern has yet to be validated with any data.
For these reasons, we believe that this mandate cannot stand. The insurance industry is already fighting (and losing) a battle in court to block this mandate but it will likely not be enough. We urge you to get involved.
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So, what can you do?
Investigate on your own, research both sides, think about your credit score and how it might impact you.
This isn't about if credit score should be used or not. This is about the emergency mandate overruling legislature and not giving investigative research time.
We'd ask that he extend the effective date of the order, to allow companies time to dig into the "real" effects on the consumers of Washington State. It has been this way for 20 years would 12-18 months really be that long to wait? As demonstrated in the recession of 2008, individual credit score is unlikely to be impacted immediately. Why not take the time and give companies a chance to change their systems and legislature to proceed. If you agree with us, just help hit the pause button and let the commissioner know your thoughts. Please make your voice heard. We strongly encourage you to do your own investigation as well.
Let your Legislative Representatives know how you feel and ask them to intervene. Contact information for Washington State elected officials can be found at https://app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder/
What You Can Expect From Us
- We have been proactively preparing our team since the moment we heard this might happen (late March). As soon as we heard the efforts by the industry for an injunction on the order failed, we began ramping up our plans (you can watch the hearing here).
- We are changing our internal workflows to allow a better response to the influx of client rate concerns while allowing time to help new clients as well.
- We have hired a full-time team member and reallocated current staff duties to help review each client's renewal rates and compare them with the many solid companies we write with.
- We are actively staying involved with our carriers, sharing ideas on how to offset these increases and making sure they are doing all they can as well.
Thank you so much for your time and consideration and please feel free to reach out to us with questions.
With deepest gratitude for your support of our locally owned and operated business,
Kim Peters, Michelle Hancock & Ryan Stueber