The House chairman of the Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee has submitted legislation that would prohibit insurance companies from charging older Mainers higher premiums based solely on their age.

Rep. Henry Beck, a Democrat who represents parts of Waterville and Oakland, has submitted to the Revisor’s Office a proposed amendment to the Maine Insurance Code in response to insurance provider Progressive Corp. seeking permission from the state Bureau of Insurance to impose age-based increases on older drivers.

Current Maine law prohibits insurers from boosting existing customers’ premiums as they age, but Beck said it isn’t clear whether the existing statute applies to new insurance consumers.

“I think it’s totally logical to extend that protection to new consumers,” he said. “I’ve now filed legislation to take care of the issue.”

The proposed amendment states, “No insurance company authorized to transact business in this State shall cancel, reduce liability limits, refuse to renew or increase the premium of any automobile insurance policy of any kind whatsoever for the sole reason that the person to whom such policy has been issued has reached a certain age.”

Jess Maurer, executive director of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging, said she supports Beck’s proposed amendment. Maurer said it is a myth that seniors “are out there wreaking havoc on the road.”

In fact, she said, the typical Maine senior drives less than younger drivers by consolidating trips, limits driving to daylight hours and avoids driving in adverse weather conditions.

“To randomly suggest that 65 is a time when you’re going to get into more accidents … it’s a very random and arbitrary suggestion,” Maurer said.

Beck said a plausible argument can be made that Maine’s existing insurance code already prohibits what Progressive is trying to do. The Ohio-based insurer, which covers nearly 15 percent of all Maine drivers, recently asked the Bureau of Insurance to provide its interpretation of the law. The case is still pending. The company did not respond to repeated requests from the Portland Press Herald to explain the reason for its request.

“I don’t think they’re being untoward,” Beck said. “There is some ambiguity in the law.”

Still, he said the Legislature can remove all doubt by passing his proposed amendment when it convenes for its next session. If enacted, the new law would apply to all new insurance policies issued after July 1, 2017.

“I think there will be tremendous interest from the Legislature to support this legislation,” Beck said.

Attempts Tuesday and Wednesday to reach state Sen. Rod Whittemore, the Republican co-chairman of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee, were unsuccessful. New bills will be considered in the next session of the Legislature in January.

Progressive initially asked the Bureau of Insurance to allow it to raise the rates of existing customers in Maine as they age, but the bureau denied that request in June, saying it would violate state law. A hypothetical example that Progressive provided to the bureau shows a 65-year-old being charged 6 percent more than a 64-year-old based solely on the customer having reached age 65.

In its June 10 decision, the bureau left open the possibility that Progressive could request permission to charge new customers in Maine higher premiums based on their advancing age. It has agreed to revisit the ruling for further discussion at Progressive’s request, and a meeting has been scheduled for mid-August. The discussion would pertain only to the possibility of age-based ratings for new customers, the bureau said.

The attempt to tie premium increases solely to age appears to be unprecedented in the auto insurance industry, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group. While teen drivers are typically charged the highest rates, those rates decline as a driver gains experience and a driving history. Loretta Worters, vice president of communications for the institute, said older drivers are often offered discounts on their insurance premiums because of strong driving histories and other factors unrelated to age.

Progressive’s proposal was met with opposition from the state director of AARP Maine, an advocacy group for older Americans. Lori Parham said that although her organization has not engaged directly with Progressive on the pending rate case, AARP opposes any action that could limit the mobility of healthy seniors in Maine. She noted that raising rates for older drivers based on their age could necessitate improvements in public transportation if it prices seniors out of the market.