Missouri Regulators Recover $7.7 Million in First Three Quarters

Insurance regulators in Missouri recently released their latest recovery figures that show the state’s Department of Insurance has recouped almost $8 million for consumers so far this year.

The total $7.7 million recovered by regulators stemmed from more than 26,000 complaints and inquiries that the Missouri Department of Insurance (MDI) received and investigated in the first nine months of 2012, according to an MDI statement issued Tuesday. Of those complaints and inquiries, nearly 39 percent were written and submitted by consumers, while the other 61 percent of complaints were made by phone.

Auto-related complaints made up $1.2 million of the total monies recovered, according to MDI spokesman Travis Ford.

“These recovery numbers show that when a claim is denied, consumers should not give up. Insurance departments in every state are there to help consumers receive every dollar their auto policy entitles them to after a claim,”  John M. Huff, director of the MDI, stated in an e-mail.

From state to state, regulators field complaints from consumers about coverage carriers and attempt to resolve them, sometimes resulting in additional claims payments going back to the consumer.

Auto Coverage Ranks Second in Complaint Volume

When broken down by line of coverage, about 640 complaints were related to Missouri car insurers. There were about 800 health-related complaints and 570 homeowners complaints.

When broken down by reason of complaint, denials of claims ranked highest with about 660 complaints, delays in claim processing followed with nearly 500, and unsatisfactory claim offers was close behind at about 470.

Those figures are nearly in line with data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) showing that most complaints regulators receive nationwide in 2012 are related to late claims payments (21 percent), while claim denials made up almost 15 percent and unsatisfactory claim settlements made up 14.5 percent, according to data released late last month. Other reasons for complaints included policy cancellation, which made up about 6 percent of complaints, and unfair rating and pricing, which has made up about 4 percent this year.

According to the data, the top three reasons for complaints—claim delays, claim denials and untimely or unsatisfactory compensation—held their rankings at about the same rates in 2011, 2010 and 2009.

The MDI’s investigations and exams of insurers are charged to its market conduct section (MCS), which so far in 2012 has recovered almost $1.5 million and penalized companies with more than $4.8 million in fines, according to the department. Since 2009, MCS enforcement actions have yielded $11.9 million in payments from insurers.

The department’s MCS launches exams and investigations to enforce state laws governing the industry and can yield several results in protecting consumers, including refunds that go back to consumers and penalties for insurers engaging in unlawful practices.

Money-minded consumers in Missouri may make a beeline for insurance providers with the cheapest prices, but they should first check out the MDI’s latest complaint report. The report lists a complaint index comparing an insurer’s track record of complaints with the average for all insurers in the market. A bottom-rate insurer may have poor customer service, and that index can be a valuable tool for consumers seeking information on how a coverage provider handles its policyholders.

Recent Colorado Numbers Show Increase in Recovered Monies

Earlier this month, Colorado insurance regulators reported that they recovered $12.5 million in fiscal year 2011-12, an increase from the $11.7 million recovered in the same period the previous year. Auto coverage was the top-ranking topic of complaints in the state. Also, regulators recovered $3.37 million from auto-related disputes, the highest dollar amount recovered among all coverage types.

About John Pirro
John Pirro is a licensed fire and casualty insurance agent specializing in various aspects of the auto insurance industry. He worked in the auto body repair industry before taking a reporting position at Online Auto Insurance News.

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