California’s Insurance Regulation Budget Is Biggest Among the States

Elizabeth Renter
By Elizabeth Renter 

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The California Department of Insurance had a budget of $195 million in 2015, the largest budget of all insurance departments in the U.S., according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That seems like a lot of money at first glance, but a new analysis looks beyond the total dollar amount to provide a different perspective on resources available to state insurance departments.

These insurance departments are responsible for regulating the rates for auto, health, homeowners and life insurance. The departments also license agents and companies, resolve consumer questions and complaints, enforce insurance laws and investigate fraud allegations. The ability to do all of these things depends on money, staff and legislative support.

According to the data analysis by NerdWallet, the California Department of Insurance budget in 2015 represented 0.08% of total state expenditures, higher than the national average of 0.07%. To regulate insurance, the state spent $4.98 per capita — slightly above the U.S. average of $4.20.

And the department kept 7.17% of its total revenue — the money brought in through fees, taxes and penalties paid by insurers and agents — compared with an average of 5.98% nationally. The analysis was based on data submitted by states to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the National Association of State Budget Officers.

The department’s deputy press secretary, Madison Voss, says the agency doesn’t believe some of the data analyzed are useful for assessing California’s resources. For example, a portion of the revenue the department raises is required by California law to go into the state's general fund, and these figures don't include federal grant money, Voss says.

The new report also looked at how many staffers were dedicated to consumer services. These are the people answering phones and resolving complaints against insurers. In California, 9.57% of insurance department staff worked in consumer affairs, less than the national average of 12.82%.