Jan. 20, 2003                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

Montana Residents Urged to Double-Check Their Coverage During Get Smart About Insurance Week Survey shows uncertainty among policy holders

       Helena, Mont. - Although most Americans feel they have about the right amount of insurance coverage (67 percent), only 34 percent say they understand the details of the coverage "very well," according to a recent survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
      When it comes to insurance, knowledge is your best policy. That's why the Montana Insurance Department in the State Auditor's Office is encouraging consumers to get smart about their coverage during the second annual Get Smart About Insurance Week, Jan. 20-24, 2003.
      During this week, consumers are urged to call the Get Smart Hotline
      toll-free at 1-866-SMARTWEEK or visit www.naic.org/gsw to request a free brochure and get information on what they need and should expect from insurance coverage. Also available on the NAIC Web site is an interactive quiz allowing visitors to gauge their level of "insurance smarts."
      "Get Smart About Insurance Week isn't about selling or canceling policies,"
      said State Auditor John Morrison, who serves as Montana's Insurance Commissioner. "It's about making sure your family is properly covered. We believe the Montana Insurance Department is the best resource for insurance-related questions and concerns.
      "As demonstrated by the survey results," Morrison said, "last year's Get Smart About Insurance Week raised awareness among consumers and helped connect them with their agents and our insurance department for information about their coverage."
      The 34 percent of Americans who understand their policy very well represents a rise of six percentage points from last year's survey.
      
      Survey finds peace of mind, but gaps
      To gauge Americans' understanding and perceptions of their insurance coverage, national research company OCR International conducted a telephone survey of 1,025 adults. Respondents were asked a range of questions based on the various types of insurance coverage they may have, including life, home, auto, health, personal liability, disability and others.
       The youngest adults (age 18 to 24) are the least likely to understand the details of their insurance "very well" (15 percent). Understanding increases among the
      most experienced consumers (age 65+) to 50 percent.
       "We're glad to see understanding is on the rise," Morrison said. "However, it's still troubling that while two-thirds of adults feel they have the right amount of insurance, only one-third seem to fully understand what they have."
      A little more than one-fifth of the public recognized they have too little insurance (22 percent). This number jumps to 33 percent in households with less than $15,000 annual income. It drops to 18 percent in households with incomes of $50,000 or more. People age 65 and older are most likely to feel they have the right amount of coverage (81 percent).
      Nine out of ten people surveyed who have insurance agreed with the statement
      "A primary benefit I get from having insurance is peace of mind." However, the number who strongly agreed with that statement dropped to 56 percent from 66 percent in 2001.
       "It appears peace of mind may be harder to come by in the post-9/11 environment," Morrison said.
      As families grow, the survey showed, more than half of parents do not add additional life insurance, either for themselves or a newborn. Just 20 percent added additional life insurance on either of the parents and only 25 percent added coverage for a child. A mere 10 percent did both.
       When it comes to retirement planning, slightly more than half of adults age 50 to 64 have incorporated life insurance into their retirement planning (53 percent). This drops to 38 percent among adults age 65 and older.
      
      How consumers can "get smart?"
       According to Morrison, there are several steps consumers can take to get smart about their insurance coverage.
      "We recommend consumers know what kind of coverage they need before they shop around," Morrison said.
      Other recommendations from the Montana Insurance Department include:

  • Check with the Montana Insurance Department at 1-800-332-6148 for tips and up-to-date information prior to buying health, life, auto, home or other insurance coverage.
  • Schedule a routine "check-up" with your insurance providers at least once a year.
  • Inquire about the cost benefit of opting for higher deductibles.
  • Ask specifically about discounts for good driving records, good health, good grades, special education or training.
  • Shop around for identical products and services. Not every company charges the same rate.
  • Remember an insurance policy is a legal document. Read it carefully.
      "The Montana Insurance Department is a terrific source of unbiased information," Morrison said. "You may not have the coverage you need. You may have more than you need. You may feel you've been treated unfairly when shopping for insurance, or you may just want help understanding how different kinds of insurance work. No matter what your situation is, we are there to help you get smart about insurance."