New Safeco Patent Links Voter Behavior to Insurance Claims

Election Week has drawn to a close, but a new patent is bringing together two unlikely partners: policyholders and their politics.

A U.S. patent for a “voting status generator” was assigned last month to Safeco Insurance of America that would provide a way to link risk of loss to a voter’s background, including how often he or she votes.

In short, the more involved someone is in the political process, the less likely that person is to file a claim, according to the company.

The patent could be put to use in a number of ways, according to the patent application, from marketing insurance discounts to screening policyholders for coverage.

Insurers “may select registered voters or persons who have registered and voted as the targets of a promotional campaign, which may offer such persons competitive premiums based on lower loss ratios,” the patent application reads.

The “voting status generator” could even determine agents’ commissions “based on the voting status of customers obtained by the agent.”

Under the patent, other potential links between loss measurements and politics are:

–Voting frequency
–Most recent instance of voting
–Voter registration
–Type of vote (in general, primary, special election)
–Method of voting (absentee ballot, early voting, in-person voting)
–Election turnout

Insurers already group motorists in a whole spectrum of ways to determine their worth as a policyholder and the risk they present of filing a claim. Most commonly, those factors include age, how often the vehicle is used, gender and driving record.

However, each state enforces a different set of factors; California, for example, bars insurers from considering credit history or presence of past coverage.

Industry experts say that Safeco seems to have waded into a new arena with its political-minded patent.

Loretta Worters, spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute (III), said that she believes “Safeco is a first on this.”

Safeco regularly explores “correlations between insurance claims and other behaviors,” according to Brenda Harrison, spokeswoman for the insurer.

“While the patent will protect our intellectual property, we don’t have plans at this time to use voter registration information among our underwriting and pricing criteria for car insurance,” she stated to Online Auto Insurance News in an e-mail.

Jeremy Brewer, spokesman for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, said that he was unfamiliar with the patent but added that insurers undergo an approval process before new factors can be considered to rate policyholders.

One of the key elements to ultimate approval, Brewer said, is that the factor be “actuarially justified,” meaning that insurers have to provide statistical evidence that a certain factor truly affects likelihood of filing a claim.

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

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