In 1997, CEJ issued a report conclusively establishing that Texas auto insurers force Texans in low income and minority communities to buy higher-priced policies to comply with mandatory insurance laws. Our follow-up report identified the insurers with the worst records. In response to our second report, the Department initiated investigations of some of the companies we identified. In addition, CEJ testified about the use of underwriting guidelines to redline at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in December, 1998.
Insurers have reacted to our studies by filing lawsuits to suppress all releases of insurance availability data. Numerous state senators and representatives are requesting that data to investigate insurance redlining.
QMR data is Zip Code level information, including the number of vehicles insured by Zip Code, that each auto insurer must file with the Department every calendar quarter. CEJ and its economist Birny Birnbaum requested the “Quarterly Market Report” (QMR) data from the Department of Insurance. This information is critical for identifying insurers that are redlining low income or minority neighborhoods. When the Department of Insurance ruled that it would release the information, the insurers sued to enjoin the Department from doing so.
A wide range of interests has identified the importance of the public release of this information. The Insurance Commissioner stated that public release of this information is “essential for the public to hold both regulators and insurers accountable.” The Court of Appeals said that this information will “ensure that there is not a negative correlation between a community’s minority population and the availability of automobile insurance.” Several Texas papers, including the Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, andAustin American Statesman have issued editorials calling for the public release of this information.
Additional information includes a press release on the rate increase of TAIPA, often a last-resort auto insurer. Detailed testimony on a TAIPA rate hearing is also available. Finally, a press release points the finger at specific companies on their records of discrimination.