In the Bay State, everyone who drives must carry auto insurance of at least the coverage and amounts required by law: 20/40/5 of liability insurance, $8,000 of PIP, and 20/40 of Uninsured Motorists Bodily Injury coverage. The form you use to register your car includes a section that must be signed by your insurance agent, attesting to the fact that you are covered. If you are a high risk driver who have been denied coverage in the voluntary market, you are eligible to apply through the Massachusetts Auto Insurance Plan (MAIP), which will then assign you to an insurer.
By rule of the MAIP, every member insurer is required to offer its assigned drivers the lower of the driver's voluntarily market coverage rates and the MAIP rates. Nevertheless, we recommend shopping around for Massachusetts auto insurance rates, and keeping the MAIP as your last resort.
What is the Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Plan (MAIP) ?
The MAIP came into existence in 2008, following the new MA state law allowing auto insurance companies to voluntarily take and reject applicants, to ensure all drivers are insured. The first thing to know is that the MAIP is not an insurance company. It is an organization that assigns high risk motorists to existing Massachusetts insurers. Every auto insurer in Massachusetts must participate in the MAIP by acting as an Assigned Risk Company (ARC), so any agent should be able to help you apply. If you like your insurance agent, you can keep him or her, even if your policy lands with another company. Your agent will handle your application and remain your point of contact.
Allocation of assignments is usually based on each insurance company's respective shares of the auto insurance market in the Commonwealth. In other words, you can’t pick your insurer if you are referred to the MAIP. Assignments are based on the relative market share of each company, as opposed to your individual preference. For example, if Liberty Mutual has a 12% share of the Massachusetts auto insurance market, then it must cover 12% of the high risk drivers. On the other hand, you may dispute your assignment under certain circumstances, such as if you have previously filed a consumer complaint with the Division of Insurance against the assigned insurer.
MAIP is administered by CAR – Commonwealth Automobile Reinsurers - which acts as the “statistical agent” for MAIP, among other roles. When it comes to setting rates and premiums, CAR “crunches the numbers” for all the auto insurers in Massachusetts. According to MAIP’s 2014 annual report, the plan covers about 1.7% of Massachusetts drivers – a relatively low number, as these plans go.
In Massachusetts, if an insurer denies you auto coverage, they have to tell you why in writing. Different companies have different underwriting criteria, so even if one rejects you, another may take you voluntarily. However, if you have been denied coverage in the voluntary market, you become eligible for MAIP and you may present those rejection letters to an insurance agent, who will help you apply to the MAIP. Sometimes an agent may directly submit your application to the MAIP before telling you that you are rejected through the voluntarily market.
As long as you have a valid driver’s license, no insurer can reject you when you are assigned through the MAIP. If your license is suspended or revoked, then work with the Registry of Motor Vehicles to get your license reinstated before looking for insurance. If you have failed to pay an auto insurance premium in the last 12 months, you will have to settle that bill before applying through the MAIP.
High risk drivers in the Commonwealth are offered the same types of coverages as are available in the voluntary market. However, auto insurers may either charge you more for or refuse to cover you for physical damage insurance - namely collision and comprehensive coverages - based on your past records. Insurers will look at your claims history, vehicle safety device as well as any convictions for “operating under the influence” (OUIs) before agreeing to offer any kind of physical damage insurance coverage. Note that if you do choose coverages for physical damage insurance, you have to present your car for inspection by an authorized insurance representative.
When you are assigned to an ARC insurer thorugh MAIP, the company is obligated to insure you for three consecutive years, as long as you remain eligible. Again, the only reason an ARC insurer may legitimately deny you all coverage or policy renewal is if your license is suspended or revoked. On the other hand, you are free to continue looking in the voluntary market for lower-priced insurance coverage during that time, and switching to something better anytime you find a carrier who will take you voluntarily. Just note that as a rule of thumb, terminating the policy before a term is up may result in a penalty for switching.
Your insurer may offer you more than the minimum mandatory coverages, but they will cost you more. An ARC will offer you up to certain coverage limits, unless you negotiate for even higher amounts. Here is a table comparing the minimum required liability insurance coverage and the highest coverage limits your assigned insurer is required to make available to you:
|MA Minimum Limits||MAIP Max. Limits unless otherwise requested|
|$20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident||$250,000 per person/$500,000 per accident|
|$5,000 per accident||$250,000 per accident|
|$8,000 per person, per accident||$8,000 per person, per accident|
|$20,000 per person /$40,000 per accident||$250,000 per person/$500,000 per accident|
MAIP Premiums and Payments
In 2009, Massachusetts transitioned to a system of “managed competition” in the auto insurance industry. One of the new rules implemented at that time said that when a high risk driver is assigned through the MAIP, the Assigned Risk Company must compare the voluntary rates they would charge you to the MAIP rates that you would get, and must offer you the cheaper rate. While premiums are not necessarily higher through the MAIP with an ARC, a high risk driver can expect to receive higher insurance rates as companies look at many factors when they set premiums for your coverage.
Auto insurers in Massachusetts offer a wide array of payment plans. However, note that if you have ever failed to pay an auto insurance premium on time within the last 12 months before your MAIP assignment, your ARC insurer has the right to require you to pay your premium in full. In other cases, if you are assigned a plan through the MAIP, you have the following payment options:
- Pay the entire premium up front, if you wish.
- Pay 25% of the premium up front, and the remainder in 10 installments, each with a small service charge.
- If your policy through the MAIP is a renewal, you need only pay 20% of the premium first, and the rest in 10 installments.
How Do I Get Insurance through the MAIP?
As mentioned above, every certified auto insurance agent in Massachusetts can help you find coverage through the MAIP if you are a high risk driver having a hard time finding affordable rates in the voluntary market. For more information about the MAIP, or to report an issue regarding MAIP, call the Massachusetts Division of Insurance’s Consumer Section at 1-617-521-7794.