State insurance regulators are likely to be giving wrong information to consumers who have questions about health or automobile insurance, a survey says.
A national study by the Center for Insurance Research indicated Thursday that state insurance regulators provided correct answers to basic questions about health insurance between 43 percent and 65 percent of the time.For auto insurance, questions were answered correctly between 26 percent and 90 percent of the time, said the center, a group based in Cambridge, Mass., that represents consumers' interests.
Many state insurance regulators "are apparently dropping the ball either because of a lack of resources or because they do not make consumer services a priority," said Robert Schneider, an attorney for the Consumers Union office in Texas.
Jason Adkins, executive director of the insurance center, said the results are disturbing considering the help consumers need in sorting through a confusing array of policies.
"The marketplace is in incredible turbulence, insurance products are incredibly complicated, and so insurance departments need to stay on the front line" and protect consumers, he said.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which represents state regulators, didn't immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
A spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, the industry's information clearinghouse, said he wasn't surprised by the findings.
"We are the public relations arm of the industry and we have had difficulty sometimes getting information from the states," said Steven Goldstein, Insurance Information Institute spokesman. "While most of time it is correct, with some states it is hit or miss."
But he added that state regulators are not the best place to get certain information, such as pricing. For that, consumers should call the companies themselves.
The study is a national sample of 38 states conducted by trained interviewers who asked basic questions about health and auto insurance.
And 65 percent of the time, regulators answered correctly that health coverage could be limited due to pre-existing medical problems.
But consumers were told incorrectly 26 percent of the time they could be rejected for auto coverage because they lived in a low income community.