The House chairman of the Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee said Tuesday that he will try to block any effort by Progressive Corp. to raise car insurance premiums for seniors in Maine based solely on their age.
“Auto insurance companies should not be able to penalize seniors simply because they are getting older,” Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, said in a written statement. “I am pursuing legislation that will make that completely clear, whether it involves existing customers of a particular insurance company or seniors who are shopping around for a new insurer. We have an obligation to protect the independence of Maine seniors. Fairness in auto insurance rates is part of that.”
Beck, a fourth-term House member who represents parts of Waterville and Oakland, was responding to a Portland Press Herald report on Ohio-based Progressive’s efforts to seek state regulatory approval to raise car insurance premiums for seniors based on their age.
The proposed change would apply only to new Progressive customers in the state.
The insurer initially asked the Maine Bureau of Insurance to allow it to raise the rates of existing customers in Maine as they age, but the bureau denied that request in June, saying it would violate state law.
A hypothetical example that Progressive provided to the bureau shows a 65-year-old being charged 6 percent more than a 64-year-old based solely on the customer having reached age 65.
In its June 10 decision, the bureau left open the possibility that Progressive could request permission to charge new customers in Maine higher premiums based on their advancing age. It has agreed to revisit the ruling this month for further discussion at Progressive’s request.
The discussion would pertain only to the possibility of age-based ratings for new customers, the bureau said.
The attempt to tie premium increases solely to age appears to be unprecedented in the auto insurance industry, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group.
While teen drivers are typically charged the highest rates, those rates decline as a driver gains experience and a driving history. Loretta Worters, vice president of communications for the institute, said older drivers are often offered discounts on their insurance premiums because of strong driving histories and other factors unrelated to age.
Progressive did not respond to requests to explain why it is seeking the rate increase for older auto insurance customers in Maine.
Progressive’s proposal was met with opposition from the state director of AARP Maine, an advocacy group for older Americans. Lori Parham said that although her organization has not engaged directly with Progressive on the pending rate case, AARP opposes any action that could limit the mobility of healthy seniors in Maine.
“We believe that legislation and regulation should prohibit companies from refusing to insure people, canceling or failing to renew policies, raising premiums, or limiting coverage based on age alone or in an arbitrary or unfair manner,”
Parham said. “The proposal by Progressive is deeply concerning as it makes major assumptions about one’s driving ability based solely on their age. Health status can be a better indicator – thus the use of vision screenings and in-person exams.”
Attempts Tuesday to reach Sen. Rod Whittemore, the Republican co-chairman of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee, were unsuccessful. New bills will start to appear in the next session of the Legislature in January.