Consumer groups unite to track insurance prices

New York Times
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

With premiums soaring for almost every kind of insurance, more than 60 consumer organizations around the country have banded together to mount a campaign against what they regard as price gouging.

The consumer groups have named their organization Americans for Insurance Reform and say that by uniting they expect to have a stronger voice and to be more quickly able to gather information on developments in insurance, which is regulated state by state.

They are calling on regulators to investigate the rise in prices and, in the meantime, to freeze prices on home insurance and medical malpractice coverage. But they also plan to conduct their own investigations.
. . .

"It is not lawsuits that are driving this problem," said Joanne Doroshow, the executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy in Manhattan, a national consumer group that focuses on the civil courts.

"This is a problem that has to do with the business practices of the industry as a whole."

Ms. Doroshow, another founder of the new organization, and Mr. Hunter, contend that regulators should work to moderate the boom-and-bust cycle of insurance that every 10 years or so results in sharp rate increases. They acknowledge that during much of the cycle, insurers drive down prices to below cost as they compete for market share to obtain money to invest in stocks and bonds. But consumers would be better off, they say, if insurance prices were more consistent.

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