自賠責保険 合理化努力を値上げの前提に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 18, 2013)
Streamline car insurance program before price hikes
自賠責保険 合理化努力を値上げの前提に(2月17日付・読売社説)

If drivers are going to be required to shoulder a greater financial burden, the government must shed light on every problem in the compulsory automobile liability insurance program and reform it into a more transparent, rational system.

Premiums for the compulsory auto insurance that every car owner must take out will be increased by an average of 13.5 percent from April. This is the second significant increase following the 11.7 percent hike in fiscal 2011.

The planned increase is attributed to the deteriorating financial condition of the insurance program. Its accumulated deficits will exceed 500 billion yen at the end of fiscal 2012.

Revenues decreased after premiums for the insurance were drastically lowered in fiscal 2008, while insurance payouts for deaths and injuries caused by traffic accidents have increased.

The purpose of the compulsory auto insurance program is to help victims of traffic accidents. Since the program cannot be sustained unless its financial conditions are improved, we think premium hikes cannot be avoided.

However, we are concerned that insurance payouts have remained high even though the number of traffic accidents and the number of people killed or injured in them have been declining.

Behind it may be an increase in claims made for mild injuries, which are not included in traffic accident statistics, and assessments of damage by nonlife insurance companies, which tend to be more lenient than those for voluntary auto liability insurance.


Check payments

Private nonlife insurance companies manage the compulsory insurance program. The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, the Financial Services Agency and other government offices should work together to develop a system to check whether insurance money is paid appropriately.

Returns from the insurance premiums are accumulated in reserve funds to use for various projects, including one to help people who suffered permanent damage in traffic accidents. But how the reserve funds are used is problematic, too.

The ministry manages the funds in its special account. To alleviate fiscal difficulties, however, about 1 trillion yen from the reserve funds was transferred to the general accounts in fiscal 1994 and fiscal 1995.

The repayment deadline has been extended repeatedly, so about 600 billion yen has not been returned yet.

With the account balance down to 200 billion yen, the principal of the reserve funds has been used and shrunk because returns from the funds alone no longer cover the costs of running the projects.

Diverting the reserve funds to help traffic accident victims is not the purpose of the compulsory auto insurance. We expect the Finance Ministry and the transport ministry to swiftly carry out their pledge to restore the full amount by fiscal 2018.


In line with the times

Projects to help traffic accident victims and prevent accidents, which are run by the government, nonlife insurance companies and JA Kyosai (Zenkyoren or National Mutual Insurance Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives) with returns from the funds, should also be checked.

Projects to help victims of traffic accidents are important, but it is worth noting that the three organizations' activities often overlap, as with a project to distribute helicopters carrying doctors. Many should be financed by the government's general account or be conducted by nonlife insurance firms as their contribution to society. It is important to scrutinize the necessity and efficiency of the projects.

The government will need to plan a new insurance program in line with the times, such as one with discount premiums for highly safe vehicles equipped with automatic braking systems to prevent accidents.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 17, 2013)
(2013年2月17日01時26分  読売新聞)

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