Auto insurance companies shouldn’t cut drivers’ premiums

Those calling for additional premium givebacks only focus on the short-term when driving declined due to COVID. This is not how insurance pricing works.

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The number of miles driven quickly returned to pre-COVID levels, which is why drivers shouldn’t expect their insurance premiums to go down.

The number of miles driven has quickly returned to pre-COVID levels, and drivers shouldn’t expect their insurance premiums to go down, one expert writes.

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Illinois PIRG is incorrect in its analysis of what has occurred in Illinois’ auto insurance market as the pandemic swept across the country.

Those calling for additional premium givebacks only focus on the short-term period when driving declined due to COVID-related cutbacks. This is not how insurance pricing works, as insurers and regulators always look at long-term patterns impacting driving and loss trends.

2020 was clearly an anomaly. Focusing solely on 2020 overlooks the bigger picture of long-term trends.

For instance, the Illinois personal auto insurance combined ratio — which measures claims losses and insurers’ expenses in relation to collected insurance premiums — highlights that 2020 stands in isolation from the long-term trend that shows costs have increased beyond pre-pandemic levels.

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This indicates insurers continue to incur more in claim losses and expenses relative to premiums. This trend is continuing and cannot be ignored.

A close look at highway driving data does indeed show that at the onset of the pandemic, miles traveled declined sharply and insurers immediately responded. However, the number of miles driven quickly returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Additionally, driving habits have changed since the start of the pandemic, and the data continues to show that more dangerous driving habits — like speeding, not wearing seat belts and driving while intoxicated — have emerged and are continuing.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2020 traffic crash data shows that 38,824 lives were lost in crashes nationwide, the highest number of fatalities since 2007.

In Illinois, fatalities rose 18.3% from 2019 to 2020, an increase more than 2½ times the national average of 6.8%.

When the pandemic hit, auto insurers understood the urgency of helping businesses and individuals recover and were quick to respond by putting $14 billion in the hands of consumers through premium givebacks and other assistance.

It’s essential to consider all the data, not a single year, or exclude the long-term trends that are forcing up the costs of vehicle repairs and medical costs.

Lynne McChristian, director, Office of Risk Management & Insurance Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Get checked for Hepatitis C

World Hepatitis Day is July 28. During this month, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is joining our public health partners to shed light on this hidden epidemic by raising awareness of the most common blood-borne infection in the United States.

The number of acute Hepatitis C (HCV) cases reported in the U.S. increased every year during 2012–2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The highest rates occurred in people 20–39 years old, consistent with age groups most impacted by the nation’s opioid crisis.

HCV is one strain of a viral liver infection that spreads through blood-to-blood contact between humans. It is mostly spread through sharing drug needles. Most people with HCV are asymptomatic, but left untreated over decades, people who are infected develop chronic liver disease or liver cancer. While Hepatitis C is on the rise, the good news is that with testing, early detection and treatment, it can be curable for most people. 

Talk to your doctor about getting tested for HCV. World Hepatitis Day is a timely reminder for everyone to contact their health care provider. Getting tested is the only way to know if you have HCV. The CDC now recommends all adults get tested as a proactive measure.

If you test positive, a full recovery is possible with the right treatment. Some people who test positive fully recover, and treatment has been known to cure most patients in eight to 12 weeks. More than half of those who become infected develop a chronic infection, which can still be treated.

Protection starts by reducing your risk. While there is no vaccine for HCV, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid risky behaviors, like injection drug use. Sharing needles, syringes or other equipment to inject drugs is the most common way HCV spreads. It can also spread through sexual contact with an infected person or through unsterilized tattoo and body piercing equipment in unlicensed facilities or informal settings. The virus is rarely spread from mother to child during pregnancy. It is not passed from infected mothers during childbirth or through breast milk.

Hepatitis C can be prevented through protective behaviors and early detection. Your wellness can’t wait. Speak with your health care provider today – it could save your life.

Derek Robinson, MD, vice president and chief medical officer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

Make Chicago safety a priority

Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed to NASCAR racing in the city. I do agree this will be a good thing. It is important that a city like Chicago continue to bring in new things to keep it vibrant and moving forward. The NFL draft, the NATO Summit, keeping sports teams in the city, upgrades to O’Hare Airport, are all examples.

But when we read almost daily of Chicago residents being killed or injured by gun violence, and the mayor remains mostly silent but has plenty of time to announce NASCAR racing, I ask: Where are her priorities?

The protection and safety of residents demands at least the same, even more, time and effort as bringing in new entertainment or business ventures. It would be great to see the mayor hold regular press conferences on safety plans. Perhaps her advisers should tell her to make it a priority, too.

Howard Herman, Skokie

NASCAR one more thing city doesn’t need

It would be hard for me to imagine making our beautiful Chicago Loop more uninviting to visitors than our current recurring episodes of retail vandalism, random gun violence and 2 a.m. drag races.  A West Loop casino with accompanying addiction and drugs, and NASCAR with noise and air pollution, just might do it.  What did I miss?

Kathryn Williams, Chicago

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