State Farm, in San Francisco Court Today, Seeks to Restrict Further Release of Data
Recently obtained documents that list the number of State Farm agents in California, broken down by ZIP code, is now incorporated into a series of maps available on the world wide web. The maps show that few State Farm agents are located in the largely poor and minority communities of central Los Angeles.
The maps can be found at: www.essentialaction.org/spotlight/statefarm.html
“The data paints an ugly picture about State Farm‘s efforts to provide insurance to low income Californians,” said Doug Heller, consumer advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). “Despite their slogans that ‘State Farm is there,’ the maps reveal that, in lower income and minority communities, State Farm is hardly there at all.”
State Farm filed suit against the Texas-based insurance expert, David “Birny” Birnbaum, who originally retrieved the data, in an effort to keep the information from the public. The data, however, is public record according to California insurance regulation and a state law established by voter-approved Proposition 103. State Farm will apply for a Temporary Restraining Order against Mr. Birnbaum in San Francisco Superior Court at 11:00 am today.
The non-profit, non-partisan FTCR sponsored California’s “Lifeline,” low-cost auto insurance legislation that Governor Gray Davis signed into law in October 1999. This first-in-the-nation program requires all auto insurance companies to underwrite a basic, liability policy for low-income motorists in Los Angeles and San Francisco counties. The policy will cost $450 per year for all qualifying Los Angeles drivers and $410 for qualifying San Franciscans and is expected to take effect by May 2000.
“California has created a lifeline insurance policy to ensure that State Farm and other insurers serve the communities that they have generally ignored in the past. These maps are powerful evidence of the need for an insurance lifeline for the poor.” said Heller.