Insurance bill rollback doesn't necessarily translate into savings

Written by Heather Stanek
The Fond du Lac Reporter
Apr. 17, 2011
 
Wisconsin drivers may not get a break on their insurance bill after all.

Gov. Scott Walker approved rolling back insurance requirements, but that may not translate to big savings for consumers.

The governor signed Act 14, repealing auto requirements that took effect in 2009 and 2010 under former Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration. The changes increased insurance limits, altered uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and required all drivers to carry insurance.

Walker’s decision still requires drivers to have insurance, but minimum liability limits would return to $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. The repealed law required $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident.

Even with the repeal, most drivers probably won’t notice a big difference on their insurance costs, said Tim Cruz, an agent with American Family Insurance, 218 N. Seymour St. Ninety to 95 percent of motorists had higher liability limits before Doyle signed the bills into law, he said.

Young drivers stand to benefit the most from the repeal, said Kevin Krug, owner of Lakeshore Financial Group, 14 Western Ave. Motorists in their late teens and early 20s, especially men, pay higher rates than the average adult because they’re more prone to accidents. If they have a ticket or an accident on their record, they may not find an affordable policy, Krug said.

Lower liability levels may make it easier for them to buy insurance, he said.

Competition has also kept prices low, said Sam Meyer, an agent for State Farm Insurance, 42 N. Main St. With so many insurance companies doing business in Wisconsin, it’s easy to shop for a better price.

In Fond du Lac, State Farm Insurance rates fell 7 percent due to better claims and cost-savings measures, Meyer said. Rates may drop even further with the repeal.
 
Mixed emotions

Attorneys and insurance agents have different opinions and mixed feelings on what the repeal means for consumers.

The Wisconsin Association for Justice, the state’s largest voluntary bar organization, was disappointed. The association supported Doyle’s insurance changes because they would ensure that customers get what they pay for, according to a press release. Protections also made sure motorists had enough coverage.

Rolling back the requirements could have a “devastating effect on consumers,” said Mike End, president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, in a statement. With Walker’s decision, minimum liability insurance would return to 1982 levels — below the rising cost of accidents and medical care.

“The new law really is a gift to insurance companies,” End said. “There is absolutely no reason why consumers should not receive all the insurance coverage they pay premiums for if their damages are serious.”

Cruz has some concerns about reducing the requirements, since $25,000 isn’t very high considering accident costs. However, 95 percent of his customer claims never reach that limit.
 
It’s always better to have too much coverage than not enough, he said.

Meyer also preferred a higher minimum for liability, but said he’s glad Walker repealed the stacking law. With stacking, a driver who owns multiple vehicles could claim coverage on each. For instance, a driver with two cars and a $1 million policy could collect $2 million.

The insurance industry had feared that the law would drive up insurance costs for consumers, since companies would need to come up with the money to cover stacked
claims.

Required

Meyer, Krug and Cruz agreed that insurance should be mandatory.

Wisconsin should be in line with the other 48 states that require insurance, Meyer said. Only New Hampshire does not mandate auto insurance.

“It’s your responsibility,” Krug added. “If you’re going to drive, you should have insurance.”

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