Calif. Assembly Committee Approves Insurance E-Delivery

Often, it’s other states that follow California’s legislative example.

But this time it’s the Golden State that’s following behind.

California is one step closer to allowing e-delivery of insurance documents after the State Assembly Judicial Committee passed a bill that would allow insurance policies to be renewed electronically. SB 251 has been a priority for the insurance industry since the start of the currentCalifornia legislative session. E-delivery is expected to save the insurance industry millions of dollars in mailing costs, although the exact figure is unknown.

There are more than 24 million auto insurance policies alone in California, according to legislative research conducted for the bill. Insurance companies in California currently have to mail out renewal and other notices to each policyholder, per state law. This bill would allow those mailings to be sent electronically to policyholders’ computers, tablets and mobile devices.

Other states, such as Oklahoma, Idaho Arizona and Kansas have already allowed e-delivery with few problems. While the moves have undoubtedly helped insurance companies save on mailing costs, e-delivery is often framed in terms of helping consumers understand their insurance policies.

The legislation has been tougher to pass in California than other states, mainly for technical reasons. California is one of a handful of states that prohibits electronic delivery of insurance documents. At the time, the so-called “digital divide” was much wider than it is today, and the Legislature moved to protect elderly and low-income policyholders who may have had limited access or understanding of electronic documents.

This legislation would allow for e-delivery, but policyholders would still be able to receive paper mailings if they prefer.

“SB 251 gives consumers more control over their own lives and allows them to receive documents in a way they prefer,” said state Sen. Ron Calderon (D). “Not every consumer has easy access to their postal mail and many just find it more convenient to use email and smartphones to manage their personal business.”

A recent J.D. Power survey suggests younger Americans prefer to interact with insurance companies electronically.

“Research and consumer feedback shows that the tech revolution has changed how consumers want to interact with their insurance company,” said Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) spokeswoman Nicole Mahrt Ganley. “SB 251 opens this door and provides choices and flexibility for consumers, with strong safeguards that will protect policyholders.”

Those safeguards, which protect consumers against sudden changes or notices ending up in spam of junk folders, are important if the bill is to pass. While California’s State Insurance Commissioner, Dave Jones, stated he supports the idea of e-delivery, he is on record opposing the bill because of concerns consumers may not get critical notices from their insurance companies.

“Given that insurance renewal offers generally happen annually or semi-annually and a consumer is not necessarily on alert for the information, there is a greater chance of them being overlooked,” Jones wrote the committee. “The failure rate for e-mail is higher than that of traditional U.S. mail.”

Sen. Calderon said those concerns have been addressed in the above-mentioned safeguards and expects the bill to easily pass when it is presented to the Assembly Appropriations Committee later this fall.

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