June 20, 2024

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NDP calls for transparency for private insurance company reporting

NDP calls for transparency for private insurance company reporting

‘Now they have free rein to raise it as much as they want and no one is questioning it,’ said Notley

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Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley is accusing the UCP of hiding information about the profits of car insurance companies for the past two years.

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The province has traditionally made the information readily available through a report produced by the superintendent of insurance, an official at Alberta Finance.

Notley said that though not required by legislation, the province has produced the report for 107 years but failed to do so in 2020 and 2021, which coincides with the government ending the cap on insurance increases.

“Now they have free rein to raise it as much as they want and no one is questioning it,” Notley said at a news conference Thursday. “Having a more clear picture of how much it has gone up definitely would happen if this report was produced.”

While in government, the NDP installed a five per cent cap on annual premium increases to slow the growth of the cost of insurance. The UCP government removed the cap in 2019 and Notley said that since then the cost of premiums has shot up, in some cases as high as 30 per cent. However, without the report it is difficult to see by how much and if it is justified — which she argues during two years of lockdowns claims should have decreased.

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The NDP filed a freedom of information request for the 2020 report but received an email from a FOIP co-ordinator saying that due to “various factors, the Superintendent has chosen not to complete a report for 2020 and will likely not do so for 2021 either.”

The Insurance Act indicates only that the minister “may prepare and publish a report respecting the insurance undertaken by each licensed insurer during the previous year.”

The 107th annual superintendent of insurance report was published in November 2020, detailing the 2019 finances of private insurance companies in Alberta, covering all forms of insurance. The government’s online archive goes back to 2000. The reports include breakdowns of the premiums written and total claims for each insurance provider in each category. For auto insurance, it includes 81 different companies in 2019, writing $5.4 billion worth of premiums for $4.3 billion worth of claims.

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Finance Minister Travis Toews said in an emailed statement on Thursday the financial information from federally incorporated insurance companies operating in Alberta can be found on the website of the federal Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. Because of this, the superintendent gave notice in February that he was pausing the production of future reports. Additional information is available on request from his office.

The federal site produces the entire individual company’s financial statement, but the companies are not broken down by province or type of insurance. As of Thursday afternoon the site was not producing reports for download, citing complications from the pandemic.

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Toews also said rates are no longer increasing, pointing to the Automobile Insurance Rate Board’s website, which is reporting a weighted average of approved rate changes over the previous 12 months (as of Feb. 28, 2022) of -0.66 per cent for private passenger vehicles and 0.01 per cent for commercial vehicles. The AIRB site, however, does not detail claims paid out by insurers and notes the rates will vary depending on jurisdiction within the province.

“The Automobile Insurance Rate Board is responsible for regulating rates,” he said. “We understand that the Automobile Insurance Rate Board is not approving further rate increases, unless an application demonstrates a rate change is absolutely necessary for an insurer to return to, or remain in, an adequate operating position.”

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Twitter: @JoshAldrich03

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