OPIC released its 2020 Recommendations Report to the 87th Texas Legislature in December 2020. OPIC made two recommendations to the Legislature that would benefit Texas insurance consumers. The Texas Legislature passed both of OPIC’s recommendations during the regular session and Governor Abbott signed them into law. Below is a summary of the recommendations from OPIC’s report, their correlating bill numbers, and specific information about the bills.
Expanding Access to Broadband Internet Service in Texas
House Bill (HB) 5
Issue: OPIC provides helpful resources to Texas insurance consumers via our website and social media applications. OPIC also receives and answers consumer and agent concerns via our website portals. Similarly, other state agencies and consumer organizations provide helpful insurance information to consumers. Insurers also often use their websites and company applications to both provide information to consumers and communicate with them on issues like filing a claim. Whenever access to reliable, high-speed internet service is compromised or limited, consumers’ access to these insurance resources is similarly compromised or limited.
OPIC Recommendation: Improve consumer access to insurance resources by expanding access to broadband internet service in Texas.
Governor Abbott and countless stakeholders and legislators also made improved access to broadband internet service throughout Texas a legislative priority for the session. The result of these efforts was HB 5.
HB 5: Effective on June 15, 2021, HB 5 provides for the expansion of broadband service. It establishes the Broadband Development Office within the Office of the Comptroller of Public Accounts to prepare, update, and publish a state broadband plan; collect information about broadband service and digital connectivity; engage in community outreach; publish a broadband development map; and establish a broadband development program to assist eligible areas.
Protecting Texans by Removing a Law that Allows Some Insurers to File a Rate without Actuarial Support
Senate Bill (SB) 965
Issue: Section 2251.1025 of the Insurance Code allows certain auto insurers to file rates with the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) without providing actuarial support or justification for those rates.
This exemption limits OPIC’s and TDI’s ability to monitor those insurers’ rates for compliance with state law, or in other words, to make sure their rates are not inadequate, excessive, unreasonable, or unfairly discriminatory (Insurance Code Section 2251.052). While TDI can still require these insurers to provide certain kinds of actuarial support on an ad hoc basis, there is no uniform applicability in what is required and for which filings because of the exemption. Moreover, the current file and use system makes this delayed receipt of information problematic for thorough and timely rate review.
OPIC Recommendation: Protect Texas consumers by repealing Section 2251.1025 of the Insurance Code, which exempts certain auto insurers from filing actuarial support for their rates.
SB 965: Effective September 1, 2021, Section 2251.1025 is repealed. All auto insurers will now have to file actuarial support for their rates with TDI.
Per TDI’s recommendation, the bill also revised rate filing requirements for certain residential property insurers. OPIC did not take a position on revising reduced rate filing requirements for residential insurers.