Topeka Legislation restricting insurance companies' use of Kansans' credit information is "a reasonable first step" toward protecting consumers, Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said Tuesday.
The bill, which awaits Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' signature, bars companies from deciding whether to sell a personal policy and what premium to charge based solely on someone's credit history. Discrimination based on race, gender or income is banned under the legislation.
In addition, insurance companies would have to notify consumers when credit information is used in calculating their premiums, and to file their scoring formulas with the Insurance Department.
Praeger, of Lawrence, said she would encourage Sebelius to sign the measure because it gives the insurance commissioner the "tools to regulate."
"We felt as we were working on the legislation that it was a reasonable step forward," Praeger said Tuesday.
Sebelius has until April 17 to act on the bill, which last month cleared the Senate and last week won House approval.
The governor's spokeswoman said Sebelius favored regulation of "credit scoring," as the practice is called but would have to review the bill. Sebelius said at a news conference last week that she studied credit- scoring issues while serving as state insurance commissioner.
Some legislators, including Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, had wanted to prohibit the use of credit information in setting premiums altogether. However, he voted for the bill that went to Sebelius.
"Once you get something established, then you can improve upon it," said Hensley, D-Topeka. "I don't think we've heard the last of this particular issue."
Some legislators worried that insurance companies might leave Kansas if credit scoring were banned. And Praeger said some companies used the information to stabilize or reduce rates for customers with good credit.
"I think we struck a balance between helping consumers and keeping companies here," she said.
Under the bill, Praeger's office must compile a report on credit scoring by January 2005.