When Matt Kaihlanen was in a motorcycle accident as a teenager he had both medical insurance and auto insurance. Yet, three years later and after a leg amputation, he’s over $1 million in debt. The debt now prevents him from getting insurance.
“It’s the leg or your life, basically,” Kaihlanen told KFOR.
Saving his life isn’t his only problem, however. “Right now, my only option is bankruptcy,” he said. “I don’t know what else to do. I don’t have $800,000, and that was a couple of years ago. I think, now, we’re up into the millions.”
Not only did his coverage not cover him for the medical costs, the costs he can’t pay dropped his credit score so low that auto insurance for his truck isn’t affordable anymore either.
“They said ‘Most kids your age have a better credit score and, because of that, they get cheaper rates,’” he said. “This is out of my control.”
Republican state Senator Rob Standridge wants to change the way insurance rates are tied to credit scores. An interim study done by legislators looked at the impact Oklahoma’s uninsured motorists have on people like Kaihlanen.
“They claim that it helps predict the frequency with which consumers will file a claim, but that’s really unproven,” said Charles Bell, the Consumer Reports Advocacy Director. “These are secret credit scores. Consumers can’t get access to the scores insurance companies are using.”
Even if a driver has a clean driving record, his or her credit score can cause them to pay nearly $3,900 just for coverage. If someone has a DWI but an excellent credit score, they would pay $2,200 for the same coverage.
The credit score problem doesn’t just extend to insurance, however. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has worked on legislation that would ban employers from checking credit scores when determining whether to hire someone.
According to Warren, many credit reports are biased and not an accurate representation of someone’s ability to do a job. The same can be true for how a person’s credit influences their ability to drive.
If that isn’t enough, another poor tax can be levied if a person is convicted of a felony, say possession of any amount of marijuana in Oklahoma, an insurance company can consider you high risk to insure your home. It’s as if felony convictions in Oklahoma can impact the degree to which a hail storm might damage one’s roof.
“It’s a lot of stress,” Kaihlanen said. “Every day, I wake up and it’s like, man, I owe a lot money. Am I ever going to get this taken care of? Am I ever going to get under it? Am I ever going to get on my feet – or foot, in this case? It’s tough.”