Division of Insurance partners with ORCAA to protect Colorado insurance consumers

Cathy O’Neil and her firm will support the DOI’s implementation of a law that restricts the use of consumer data by insurers.

Last summer, Governor Polis signed Senate Bill (SB) 21-169 – Restrict Insurers’ Use of External Consumer Data – into law, which protects Colorado consumers from insurance practices that result in unfair discrimination on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, gender identify, or gender expression. The Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), is excited to contract with Cathy O’Neill and O’Neil Risk Consulting & Algorithmic Auditing (ORCAA), a consulting firm that helps companies and organizations identify and manage algorithmic risks, to assist us with the implementation of the law.

 

Get the latest state-specific policy intelligence for the health care sector delivered to your inbox.

 

The rapid expansion of big data has transformed insurance practices. While these tools have the potential to benefit both insurers and consumers by increasing efficiencies, the unchecked use of big data can unintentionally result in harm to black, indigenous and people of color and other protected groups.

“We are honored and proud to be part of the Division’s important work on this landmark law. Getting to clear, industry-specific standards about fairness and discrimination in the context of AI and big data is crucial — both to protect consumers, and to give companies clarity on what’s expected of them. Colorado’s law is a big step in the right direction,” said Cathy O’Neil, ORCAA’s CEO. “We hope to see more states and industries follow their lead.”

“We are not just excited to bring Cathy and the ORCAA team on board to help protect Colorado insurance consumers, but we hope our work will be a model for other states in helping people get treated fairly by the insurance industry. It is a valuable step in ensuring that we take the necessary steps to ensure that big data is used responsibly by insurers,” said Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway.

Algorithms have become a prominent feature in all aspects of business. However, they can often have unintended consequences, as described on the ORCAA website.

“Algorithms are increasingly assisting or replacing people in making important decisions. Today, algorithms help decide who gets hired, how much to charge for insurance, who gets approved for a mortgage or a credit card. They also inform choices about sentencing, parole, and bail. We tend to hear about these algorithms when they mess up — when they offer women less credit than men, or make it harder for people with mental health status to get jobs, or treat black defendants more harshly than white ones.  

“Whether made by people or algorithms, these are hard decisions. Sometimes they will be wrong. But there is no excuse for an algorithm to be racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, or otherwise discriminatory.”

ORCAA has worked with a variety of public and private organizations, including the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Reports, AirBnB and the City of Amsterdam.

Cathy O’Neil is the CEO of ORCAA and has been an independent data science consultant since 2012. She wrote the book Doing Data Science in 2013 and Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality And Threatens Democracy, released in September 2016. She also has prominent roles in two documentaries, 2018’s “Coded Bias” and  “The Social Dilemma,” released in 2020.

Find more information about SB21-169 on the Division’s website SB21-169 – Protecting Consumers from Unfair Discrimination in Insurance Practices, including details about the stakeholder engagement process and stakeholder meetings.

This press release was provided by the Colorado Division of Insurance.