Most states (32) fail when it comes to providing complaint information about insurers to consumers, according to a Consumer Federation of America (CFA) report.

CFA, in Washington, D.C., graded each state based on complaint information the state supplies to consumers shopping for four major lines of insurance: auto, home, health, and life. If a state reported to consumers about all four lines, it received an "A." If a state's information covered three lines, the grade dropped to a "B;" for two, a "C;" and one, a "D." If the state didn't provide information about complaints, its grade was an "F."

"Complaint information is the only proxy that state insurance departments have devised to inform consumers of the relative quality of service to expect from an insurance company," says J. Robert Hunter, CFA's director of insurance and former Texas commissioner.

The CFA study found that most state insurance departments don't supply information to help consumers compare the service levels of insurance companies. Only 19 states supply such information for auto insurance; 15, for homeowners; 14, for health insurance; and 12, for life insurance. Here's how each state fared (population percentages add up to 101% due to rounding):

States with an "A" grade:
Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin.
The 26% of the nation's population in these states are receiving excellent information.
States with a "C" grade:
California, Connecticut, New York, and Washington. They represent 22% of the population.
States with an "F" grade:
The rest of the states—representing 38% of the population—received "F" grades because they didn't supply complaint information (or didn't reply to repeated requests for the information).
States with a "B" grade:
Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
They represent 12% of the population.

States with a "D" grade:
Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico.
Only 3% of the population resides in these states.

CFA, a nonprofit association of some 260 proconsumer groups, called upon states to do more to get this vital information into the hands of their citizens. "We congratulate the states that are supplying this information to their consumers," Hunter says. "States with poor grades should look to the states with 'A' and 'B' grades as examples of how to help consumers," he says.

©1999 Credit Union National Association Inc.