Idaho Senate Passes Bill to Require Underinsured Motorists Coverage

March 8, 2007

A bill to require Idaho insurers to offer coverage for accidents involving underinsured drivers passed the Senate, overcoming objections from two insurance agents who said it could increase costs.

The measure now goes to the House.

Underinsured motorists coverage pays for property damage and bodily injury caused by another motorist who doesn’t carry enough insurance to cover damages in an accident. It pays the difference between the injury suffered and the liability covered by the insurance of the driver at fault.

Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, argued that Idaho is one of just a few states that doesn’t require insurance companies to offer such coverage. With the minimum liability in Idaho just $25,000, medical costs commonly exceed that amount, he said.

“All too often, people think they have full and comprehensive coverage when they don’t,” Hill said, adding the proliferation of low-cost insurance makes it difficult to know if underinsured coverage is included in a policy.

Sens. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, and John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, who sell insurance for a living, argued that Hill’s bill could boost the cost of policies, potentially leading to more uninsured motorists.

“Every time we raise costs, it does force other people out the other end,” Cameron said.

Hill countered that his bill, should it become law, only requires insurance companies to offer the coverage. Buyers could turn it down.

A separate auto insurance-related bill, also sponsored by Hill, passed 33-2. It would prevent insurance companies from reducing their coverage limits when a member of the insured’s family, a household member or another authorized user of a vehicle is in an accident.

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