Biss, Collins propose legislation banning car insurance premium redlining


Daily file photo by Ryan Wangman

State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) speaks with a supporter at a “meet and greet” last month. Biss and State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) plan to introduce legislation prohibiting car insurers from using ZIP codes to determine premium rates.

Jake Holland, Copy Chief

State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) plan to introduce legislation prohibiting car insurers from using ZIP codes to determine premium rates, according to a news release.

The proposed legislation comes after a ProPublica-Consumer Reports investigation earlier this month that discovered a bias in car insurance premiums across several states. According to the investigation, residents with ZIP codes from predominantly minority neighborhoods often paid more than their counterparts from predominantly white areas.

Of the 34 Illinois companies studied in the investigation, 33 charged at least 10 percent higher premiums on average for the same driver in a predominantly minority neighborhood than a white area with comparable risk of accidents.

According to the news release, Collins and Biss — who is running for governor — will amend a pending state senate bill that would prohibit insurance firms from using people’s credit ratings to determine their car insurance premiums. The practice, though considered discriminatory to minority and low-income populations, is legal in Illinois, according to the news release.

The report — which focused on Illinois, Texas, California and Missouri — noted that the overpricing may produce a subtler form of “redlining,” the denial of services to largely minority neighborhoods. To simplify the analysis, researchers limited the demographic to one type of customer: a 30-year-old woman with a safe driving record.

“This is a pattern of discrimination all too familiar to people of color at every level of modern life,” Collins said in the news release. “A fair market demands a level playing field. Stories like this remind us that this requires investigation and regulation.”

Biss echoed Collins’ sentiments, stressing the need to remedy “across-the-board disparities” that “don’t occur by accident.”

“As a mathematician, as a lawmaker and as a person who fights for equality, I am deeply troubled by the questions that were raised in this investigation,” Biss said in the news release. “There clearly is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed by the insurance industry and by the government on behalf of consumers.”

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