State senator wants to bar ZIP code from car insurance equation

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State Sen. Jacqueline Collins wants to bar insurance companies from using a person’s ZIP code when setting auto insurance premiums. | Andrea Salcedo/Sun-Times

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins wants to bar insurance companies from using a person’s ZIP code when setting auto insurance premiums, saying the move would help prevent insurers from charging higher-than-usual rates to drivers in minority communities.

The Chicago Democrat said Monday she’ll add the ZIP code rule to her pending bill that would block insurers from considering a person’s credit rating.

“Our laws must adapt to do justice for disadvantaged communities,” Collins said.

Collins has worked on legislation for two years to prevent insurance companies from charging higher rates for people who live in predominantly minority or low-income areas.

A recent report published by ProPublica and Consumer Reports that focused in Illinois and three other states concluded 33 of 34 insurance companies analyzed in Illinois charged at least 10 percent more in ZIP codes where a majority of the residents are minorities. Additionally, six Illinois insurers charged rates as high as 30 percent higher in minority ZIP codes, the report showed.

The Insurance Information Institute trade group disputed the report’s findings after hiring an independent expert to review the data it’s based on.

Collins, who serves on the Senate insurance committee, said she’s been unable to get the bill out of the committee because of the pushback from insurance lobbyists.

“What they’ll say is that we cannot discriminate base on race, but we know that ZIP codes and credit scores are proxies for race,” Collins said. “We have a very difficult battle on our hands right now because of the influence of the insurance industry in the state.”

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