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Massachusetts Auto Insurance Rates Rise


Auto insurance rates in Massachusetts are climbing higher. Drivers are starting to see their premiums go up four years after rates dropped when the state partially de-regulated the auto insurance business.  WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

        Many of the largest auto insurance companies doing business in Massachusetts have raised rates in each of the last two years.  The insurers are faced with rising costs for claims from car crashes, thefts and injuries, according to James Harrington, of the Massachusetts Insurance Federation.

        Major insurance companies have raised rates by a median of 4 .3 percent so far this year, after a median increase of 4.5percent last year, according to an analysis of industry data by the Boston Globe.

        Harrington said the rate increases in Massachusetts mirror what's happening in the rest of the country.

        The auto insurance rate hikes in Massachusetts are not excessive, in the opinion of Barbara Anthony, who heads the state’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.

        Auto insurance rates used to be set by state regulators .That allowed  for little price variation from company to company.  But, four years ago the Patrick administration ushered in what it called managed competition. A dozen additional companies started selling auto insurance in the state, and prices varied.

        Anthony, the state’s top consumer official, urges people to shop for the best deal they can find on car insurance.

        Deirde Cummings, the legislative director for the consumer organization, MassPIRG        contends managed competition  has mostly benefited the insurance companies and well to do drivers who can combine insurance policies for their homes and vehicles to qualify for deep discounts.

        Cummings doubts there will be any attempt to re-regulate auto insurance rates.

        Over insurance industry objections the  state legislature kept an independent board in place  to hear driver appeals over who was at fault in a crash, and it banned the use of credit scores to set  insurance rates.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.