March 25, 2011

Complaint verification system now more efficient, effective at Missouri Insurance Department

Missouri one of only three states using new technology

Jefferson City, Mo. - The Missouri Department of Insurance continues to respond to Gov. Jay Nixon's call for more efficient government, this time by launching a new online system for verifying consumer complaints. The department will now save about 40 work hours and countless amounts of paper each year by sending complaint data to insurance companies online.

In the past, the department sent insurance companies hard-copy lists of every consumer complaint filed against the company. Insurers have the opportunity to review the complaint data for accuracy. The process was done at the beginning of each year and took about three months for the department and the insurers to complete.

The department's Consumer Affairs Division in 2010 moved its consumer complaint system to State-Based Systems, an online service provided by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. SBS now allows complaint data to be sent using a new secure website, a process the department began in January. In addition, the department will now send insurers the data quarterly, which means smaller batches of records to review each time.

"Missouri is one of only three insurance departments in the country to leverage this new technology," said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance. "Feedback from our team and the insurance industry has been overwhelmingly positive so far, as countless hours and resources are being saved by regulators and companies alike."

Once verified, the department uses this data to build its annual complaint index, which allows consumers to check the history of consumer complaints against a company. Consumers can search the index by company name, type of insurance or by highest or lower index rating. Fewer consumer complaints against a company results in a lower index rating.

The department received 4,200 formal complaints in 2010, with health insurance complaints leading the way, followed by auto and homeowners. The department returned nearly $10 million to consumers who filed complaints.

As part of Gov. Nixon's directive to all state agencies, the Department of Insurance has converted to paperless systems in several areas, including insurance agent licensing, industry form filing and consumer complaint management.

Consumers can file complaints or ask general questions about insurance by visiting or calling the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390.