July 12, 2012

Missouri Department of Insurance releases latest consumer complaint numbers

Consumer can search insurers' complaint histories before buying

Jefferson City, Mo. - Consumers shopping for insurance can use the latest complaint data released by the Missouri Department of Insurance. The annual complaint index report is posted and searchable on the department's website, insurance.mo.gov. Users can view consumer complaint histories for more than 1,200 insurance companies doing business in Missouri since 2009.

Each insurance company in the online database is assigned a complaint index number, which explains whether the company has a high, average or low volume of complaints based on its size. A complaint index of 100 is average. An index less than 100 means a company receives fewer complaints than average, while an index of more than 100 means a company receives more complaints than average.

The online search feature can be sorted by line of insurance, such as auto, homeowners, long-term care or health. Consumers can find a complaint index rating for a particular company, or view the rankings of companies with the highest or lowest number of complaints within a three-year period.

"Missouri's competitive insurance market allows consumers to shop around for a company that suits their needs," Missouri Insurance Director John M. Huff said. "Our complaint index gives consumers a look at how an insurance company treats its policyholders, whether that's claims handling, pricing, marketing tactics or other factors."

The complaint index numbers are based on the roughly 3,500 complaints consumers file with the department every year. The department mediates complaints and in 2011 helped consumers receive an extra $19.2 million in claims payments from their insurance companies. Consumers who filed complaints related to the Joplin tornado have received an extra $5.5 million in claims payments.

In addition to using the complaint index, Huff says consumers should check to make sure their agent or insurance company is licensed to do business in Missouri. That information is also available on the department's website on the right-hand side under Look Up an Agent/Agency.

Consumers can file complaints, get complaint index ratings, verify licensing or ask general insurance questions by calling the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390 or visiting insurance.mo.gov.