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Prop. 17: Changing the Way Auto Insurance Rates Are Calculated

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, June 7, 2010
When an insurance company goes to figure out how much to charge you for auto coverage, there are few things they have to consider under California law:  Your safety record, the number of miles you spend behind the wheel and how long you’ve been driving. There are also more than a dozen optional factors they may consider. For example, if you’ve been with one company for awhile, they can offer you a loyalty discount. But a company can’t offer this discount to new customers – like those who switch from another insurer. Prop. 17 would change that. Mike D’Arelli (DEE-uh-relly) heads up the Alliance of Insurance Agents and Brokers. He says 17 would save his clients money:

You know, I can say, Marianne we have you with company a, but I can move you to company b and you can take your discount with you from company a to company b. Instead of paying 1400 dollars a year I can give it to you for 1150. It’s a better deal for you and you don’t have to leave you discount behind.”

D’Arelli says right now customers avoid changing companies because they would lose that discount.   The measure is funded and backed almost entirely by Mercury Insurance. D’Arelli says many insurance companies support the measure; he says it’s a business decision:

“They want more customers on the books and the only way they get those customers is to offer them something better than they have at another company and so it really does come down to competition.”

But Doug Heller with the No on 17 campaign says it’s not so simple:

When an insurance company is trying to sell you an initiative, I think people need to think twice about it and think what interests the insurance company has in mind?”

Prop. 17 would allow insurance companies to base their prices – in part – on a driver’s history of coverage. Heller says that means people who go without insurance – for financial reasons – or because they use public transit - would end up paying higher rates when they needed coverage again in the future:

“Prop 17 allows insurance companies a new way to increase costs of car insurance.”

Mercury Insurance has donated nearly 16 million dollars to try to pass prop. 17. Heller and the other opponents have raised only a fraction of that.  
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