NJBIZ

Lawmakers Split On Insurance Rights

NJBIZ — Monday, March 12, 2007

A caveman may or may not be smart enough to apply for Geico auto insurance, but if he wants the chance to buy a policy it would help to have a college degree. Some folks in Trenton are pushing legislation to prevent that from mattering but a bill mandating changes in auto insurance underwriting has hit the wall.

The state Senate Commerce Committee met last week to consider S-1714, a bill that would prohibit using education and occupation as rating factors in selling auto insurance in New Jersey. The committee, thanks to three abstentions, split on the bill, with sponsor Nia H. Gill (D-Essex) voting in favor of moving it and Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen) voting against it. The other committee members abstained.

Geico, based in Washington, D.C, along with 10 other New Jersey auto insurers, has been accused of discriminatory practices by a coalition of state consumer and civil rights groups that claim the 11 companies have systematically discriminated against minority and blue-collar applicants for auto insurance by basing their rates on education, occupation or both.

Beside Geico, the only other insurer being accused of discrimination on the basis of both occupation and education is Electric Insurance Co., according to the state Department of Banking and Insurance. AIG Premier Insurance and Selective Auto Insurance Company of New Jersey underwrite based on occupation. A number of other firms use education as a factor in heir decisions.

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