Governor Bentley's Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission

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Governor Bentley Releases Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission Report

MONTGOMERY – Governor Robert Bentley on Wednesday (2/13/2013) released the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission Report, which includes recommendations that could be used to address the availability and rising cost of homeowners insurance.

Governor Bentley created the Coastal Insurance Commission by executive order in April of 2011 to address the insurance needs of Alabamians living along the Gulf Coast, which is vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes. In the wake of the April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak, the commission’s mission was expanded, and the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission was created to take a statewide approach to addressing insurance needs. Commission members studied various issues related to a lack of affordable and comprehensive homeowners insurance in some areas due to natural disasters.

“Homeowners insurance reform is a complicated issue, and I appreciate the time and sacrifice each commission member gave to address insurance needs,” Governor Bentley said. “The result is a comprehensive set of recommendations. We will now evaluate these recommendations and study their feasibility. Our goal is to help make homeowners insurance more available and more affordable, and we will move forward with the recommendations that best help us accomplish this.”

The commission was chaired by Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell and included 28 other members. Commission members researched issues affecting homeowners by examining past insurance reports and talking with experts in the insurance industry. The commission held listening sessions at five locations throughout the state to hear directly from citizens. Other experts from the fields of insurance, risk management and disaster mitigation met with commission members to generate best practices, research, models and insurance options for the report.

Report recommendations for consideration include:

(1) Create an Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research

(2) Dedicate $100 Million of Restore Act funds to mitigation efforts

(3) Improve building codes

(4) Collect and publish data that will help consumers select an insurance plan with the best coverage and price

(5) Require one state agency to be responsible for collecting construction data information across Alabama

(6) Consider creating a multi-state compact to spread risk across state lines

(7) Direct the Department of Insurance to examine its consumer affairs division and identify areas for improvement

(8) Further educate and discuss proper valuation of homeowners’ policies

(9) Reintroduce insurance bills from previous legislative session(s)

(10) Explore additional legislation to:

 i. Amend existing homeowners captive insurance statutes

ii. Encourage private insurance carriers to write policies currently covered under the Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association (AIUA)

iii. Encourage alternative insurance market products (e.g. high-deductible policies with low premiums and a catastrophic backstop)

iv. Allow for the sale of policies with an insured value that is less than the replacement cost and that will cover the amount of debt on the insured home.

(11) Direct AHIC to study the rate hearing process and the potential for mandating a public hearing by the Department of Insurance Commissioner if the homeowner’s premium rate equals or exceeds a specified percentage increase.

(12) Ask the Alabama congressional delegation to organize a group of insurance representatives and advocates to study and form solutions for multi-state issues.

(13) Form a Multi-State Insurance Alternatives Advisory Committee with insurance representatives and consumers

“I support the creation of a center for research and excellence to be used as a statewide source of information for insurance needs and reforms,” Governor Bentley said. “The center could provide education programs to develop innovative approaches to solving problems associated with insurance issues. Similar centers exist around the country, and I support the creation of one in Alabama to research and address specific insurance needs of people statewide.”

“A key to lowering homeowner’s insurance costs on the coast is to reduce the damage to homes from storms. A major priority is to fortify homes by providing mitigation grants to eligible homeowners in coastal counties,” Governor Bentley added. “I will work with the Restore Act Council to find money available for the mitigation grants for coastal counties.”

“On behalf of the commission members, I am honored to release our final report of recommendations to the Governor,” Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell said. “We appreciate Governor Bentley choosing us to serve as members of this very important commission and to provide recommendations that may improve the insurance environment in Alabama. We commend the Governor for his leadership in addressing the challenges that are before us and thank him for this opportunity.”

“The Alabama Department of Insurance was pleased to be a part of the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission process,” Alabama Department of Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling said. “We served as a resource for commission members, helping them understand the homeowners insurance marketplace and the department’s role in insurance regulation.”

“With the success of the insurance reform bills passed in the Legislature in 2012, and with the continued pursuit of mitigation grants, homeowners in Alabama will have more options to reduce insurance costs,” Governor Bentley said.

The full report can be found here http://www.aldoi.gov/PDF/Misc/AHICReport.pdf

Posted 2/13/2013

AHIC SUBMITS FINAL REPORT TO GOVERNOR

HHII has been told that Governor Bentley has received the Alabama Homeowners' Insurance Commission's final report.  HHII has not seen the final version but voted earlier not to approve the draft report for reasons explained here.  We encourage you to read this post and to watch this HHII video showing how the AHIC Commissioners seem to have conveniently forgotten that the Governor asked them to come up with solutions to the insurance crisis.

Posted 9/162012

AHIC VOTES TO APPROVE REPORT

On Friday, August 17, the AHIC approved by a 15-1 vote its draft report which will now be presented to Governor Bentley.    Here is the draft version of the report .

Just over a year ago, Gov. Robert Bentley charged the members of his insurance commission to go forth, listen, and bring back solutions that meet broad agreement. Despite this charge, the more-or-less official position of the Commission is that they were not commissioned to "solve" the problem in the first place. Alabama Commissioner of Revenue, Julie McGhee, was incredulous that the AHIC would be expected to solve the problem.  "If we were solving the problem, we'd be the only state in the nation to do so." she said.  Speaking for the Governor, she went on to say a solution "was not going to happen today, not going to happen next year.  We didn't get here overnight and we're not going to sove it overnight."   Local representatives, including Gary Ellis, Steve McMillan and Senator Brooks said nary a word when Michelle pointed out that the report doesn't propose any solutions.

When the HHII representative asked if the report being voted on was a progress report (as Judge Russell had said it would be a couple of meetings earlier) or the commission's final report, Judge Russell said, in so many words: well, yes and no; who are we to decide?

HHII has found the general consensus of the consumers it represents to be that this report does not provide a solution to the homeowners' insurance crisis and HHII's representative therefore voted no.  She challenged the rest of the commission to consider if they have served the Governor and the people of AL well with their work.

You can read the individual committee reports which formed the basis for this final report and HHII's comments on the deliberation process here.

Click here to watch video clips of the meeting. 

Revised 8/19/2012

Insurance commission nears final recommendations

From George Altman post on al.com 6/30/2012

The Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission on Friday moved closer to adopting a final report to send to the governor, approving most of the proposals before the group but leaving a few to be considered at a later meeting.

Commission members voted in favor of more than a half-dozen different pieces of legislation supported by south Alabama lawmakers, although the committee was unable to come to agreement on specific details for some of the proposals.

The group also adopted recommendations related to efforts to minimize risk by promoting more storm-resistant construction, insurance industry regulation and the creation of an academic body to study insurance issues.

Read list of proposed legislation

Read full al.com post

Posted 7/1/2012

AHIC Educational Meeting Postponed

The education session planned for Monday, January 30, in Montgomery is officially postponed. A reschedule date will be provided very soon.

The one speaker scheduled to present in-person at the session has an unexpected conflict that prevents him from being in Montgomery that day. In addition, several AHIC members, including legislators critical to the AHIC efforts, have reported they will also be unable to attend on Monday. Chairman Russell believes asking the other AHIC members to drive several hours for one videoconference presentation and discussion without a significant number of participants is unfair.

Chairman Russell is currently attempting to reschedule for the first or second week of the legislative session, which begins February 7. He is extending invitations to legislators in leadership positions to join that session. Both speakers originally scheduled for the January 30 session will be included in the rescheduled session.

Signed: Renee Carter

Updated1/27/2012

AHIC 12/12/2011 Educational Meeting

Read official minutes of AHIC 12/12/2011 Educational Meeting 
How to Deal With Catastrophes

Posted 1/5/2012

AHIC 11/7/2011 Educational Meeting

Read official minutes of AHIC 11/7/2011 Educational Meeting 

Posted 11/17/2011

AHIC 10/17/2011 Listening Meeting

Read official minutes of AHIC 10/17/2011 Listening Meeting 

Posted 10/29/2011

Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission visits Decatur

Read complete 10/18/2011 post by Brian Lawson, The Huntsville Times

Sharp rises in deductible rates, buried in the fine print.

Homeowners' insurance policies canceled unless the customers add an auto insurance policy.

People who cannot get a new homeowner's policy, even if they've never made a claim, because they were part of a mass cancellation of polices.

The problems described by area residents in Decatur on Monday night were not simple and neither is the task facing the commission appointed by Gov. Robert Bentley to develop proposals for lowering homeowner's insurance rates.

John Caylor, regional chair of the commission, said he's been struck by the scope of the difficulties homeowners are facing across the state and the depths of despair about a lack of affordable policies.

Jeanine Fowler, who lives in Logan in South Alabama described the plight she faces.  Fowler and her husband, who is in the Navy and has spent the past three years in Afghanistan, have a modest home, not on the water.  She said in shopping for a policy, the quotes ranged from $2,700 to $6,000.  She took the lowest rate, but it's a third of her house payment.  She said a friend who lives nearby in Florida, but on the water in a house similar to hers, pays $1,300 a year.  Fowler said she lost her job in June and she expects her rates to go up next year.  "We're trying to raise a family, but that's really hard to do in Alabama," she said.

Jimmy Hester, a longtime coach in Decatur, seemed to sum up the feeling of many in the crowd as he described being surprised to learn his policy deductible had jumped from $500 to $1,700 in one year.  "It was in the fine print," he said.  "If you're going to increase something that much, you need to do it in big, bold print."

Alabama Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, said he is continuing to work on legislation to help lower homeowner's insurance rates across the state.

Posted 10/19/2011

AHIC 9/26/2011 Listening Meeting

Read official minutes of AHIC 9/26/2011 Listening Meeting 

Posted 10/6/2011

Alabama insurance special session possible in January

Read complete 9/17/2011 article by Philip Rawls, AP

The special legislative session that Gov. Robert Bentley has promised on the affordability and availability of homeowners insurance could come in early 2012. The governor and the chairman of his insurance commission said a special session is possible in January before the Legislature's regular session begins Feb. 7 or it could be called within the regular session.

The commission's chairman, Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell, said the panel plans two more listening sessions: Guntersville City Hall at 6 p.m. on Sept. 26 and Decatur City Hall and Convention Center at 6 p.m. on Oct. 17.

The last two listening sessions will be followed by at least three meetings in Montgomery for the commission to hear from various experts, ranging from insurance actuaries to building code officials. Then the commission will work on proposed bills for the Legislature and possibly regulations for the insurance commissioner to consider.

Russell said the commission would like to have those to the governor in early January. That would leave the governor time to call legislators to Montgomery to focus on the insurance issue before their regular session, when the state budgets and hundreds of other bills would compete for attention. A special session within the regular session would require lawmakers to set aside all other bills for a week or two to work on insurance issues.

 Posted 9/18/2011

Homeowners Insurance Commission meeting in Tuscaloosa draws small crowd

Read complete 9/12/2011 article by Martin Swant --- The Birmingham News

Read official minutes of AHIC 8/30/2011 Listening Meeting 

Although Tuscaloosa was one of the cities hit hardest by the April 27 tornadoes, public participation in the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission's hearing Monday night was sparse.

The Tuscaloosa hearing at the University of Alabama was the third of five hearings around the state. Last month, more than 700 people attended a previous hearing in Mobile with many expressing anger over the price of their property insurance.

One person who did speak Monday was Johnny Chaney of Fairhope.  He dropped homeowners insurance in 2005 when his annual premium was $2,400, he said, because he hadn't had much damage from past storms and decided it was too expensive to keep.  However, now that his home is paid for, he worries about what could happen if a storm does hit his house sometime in the future.  "I'm at the mercy of FEMA if a storm does come through and destroys my home," Chaney said.

  Posted 9/14/2011

No insurance crisis evident in Dothan;
meeting draws small crowd

Read complete 8/31/2011 article by Jeff Amy, Press-Register

Read official minutes of AHIC 8/30/2011 Listening Meeting

Tuesday in the state’s Wiregrass region, fewer than 40 attendees rattled around a city gymnasium for a meeting with the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission. Only four people spoke. 

Convincing people who are farther away from the coast that they should worry about insurance problems was difficult before April’s tornadoes. Efforts to make insurance changes have been dogged by accusations that relief on the coast would mean higher rates upstate. Sandra Ball of Dothan asked whether that was the commission’s aim. “I don’t know what is fair,” she said. “That’s what I’m asking you.”

The commission members in some ways tried to persuade the small audience that the problem was something the whole state should worry about. “In my district and my county, it’s a real crisis,” state Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, said. “I also look forward to making the case why it’s a serious issue around the state and not just in Mobile County.”

Posted 8/31/2011

Forum Held in Dothan to Hear Citizens Concerns About Homeowner's Insurance

Read complete 8/31/2011 report by WTVY's Deanna Bettineschi

"Us citizens are trying to figure out why there are such differences in premiums"

Many wonder if the price of homeowners insurance will ever become more affordable. Right now they're worried they won't be able to pay premiums if the price continues to climb...especially in coastal areas.

"The statewide averages is about eight hundred and fifty four dollars and that includes everything, liability, fire, wind and hail...plus a modest deductible of around five hundred dollars....well my premiums are three thousand one hundred dollars and my deductible is seven thousand dollars." Representative of Homeowners Insurance Initiative Michelle Kurtz said.

Those groups included insurance companies. Agents say the business is highly regulated and needs to have competitive rates to stay in business. They believe homeowners have to expect higher rates if they are in an area of higher risk.

"Areas that are more susceptible to catastrophes and particularly coastal areas are typically going to pay a higher premium based on expected losses and historical losses." Jack Brunson with the National Security Fire and Casualty Company said.

Michelle Kurtz is hoping to get this clarity bill passed. The whole point of it is so home owners can compare premiums. "We would ask aggregate data over the last ten years of the number of policies, dollar amounts of premiums coming in, the dollar amount of claims going out, so we can see the ratios throughout the state." Kurtz said.

Many are grateful Governor Bentley is so committed to improving homeowners insurance in Alabama. They also believe going statewide to hear citizens concerns is a step in the right direction.

Posted 8/31/2011

Overflow crowd calls on insurance commission to lower rates

Read original article by Jeff Amy, Press-Register, 8/30/2011

Read official minutes of AHIC 8/29/2011 Listening Meeting
Written comments submitted at 8/29/2011 Meeting
Mail received by AHIC following 8/29/2011 Meeting

An overflow crowd of more than 700 people, mostly angry about how much they pay for property insurance, pressed the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission for relief Monday night.

People sat on the carpet of the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center as speakers repeatedly told the panel that they were at the breaking point financially, unable to afford higher premiums.

Darla Hayes of Mobile said she was a single mother, who worked long hours to afford her home. “I sit knowing that I may not be able to sit in that home next year,” Hayes said, her voice cracking.

A.R. Grimes of Theodore said he dropped his wind coverage rather than pay the cost. “I decided I was not going to pay for my home and then rent from the insurance company,” Grimes said to applause.

The panel, charged by Gov. Robert Bentley with making insurance cheaper and more available, held the first of five public hearings. Another is scheduled at 6 tonight in Dothan, followed by meetings next month in Tuscaloosa, Decatur and Guntersville. The group is supposed to issue recommendations for Bentley to forward to a special session of the Legislature.

Among the common themes Monday night were retired and working people whose incomes don’t increase at the same rate as premiums. Also repeatedly raised was the specter of having to pay a large deductible after a storm.

Several speakers also said that they felt efforts to tighten building codes should not be the main focus of the commission’s effort.

Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell, who chairs the group, said Monday was valuable because it gave commission members from outside Mobile and Baldwin counties the chance to gauge the depth of coastal residents’ frustration for themselves.

“It’s like seeing out into the future, hearing what you guys are talking about now,” said panel member Liz Huntley of Clanton, referring to fears that insurers could drop coverage and raise rates in the rest of Alabama following the April tornadoes.

It was clear that many attendees were tired of talking about their problems and were ready for action. “I think it’s time for the Legislature to get on with it,” said Louisa Toler, who lives east of Daphne.

Linda King of Cypress Shores said she worried about being covered by a surplus lines company, which is only lightly regulated by the state. “Find a way to lower premiums,” she said. “The way I see it right now, the deck is stacked against the consumer.”

Stan Virden, representing the Hurricane Homeowners Insurance Initiative, pressed for the citizens’ group proposal to force insurers to reveal what they charge in premiums and pay in claims in various areas. “We have found there is no sound actuarial basis at the Department of Insurance for these premiums,” Virden said. “We need clarity on why our rates are so distorted. We need equity on availability and cost.”

A number of people said that 5 percent hurricane deductibles, now required by most carriers, have shifted too much risk onto property owners. Severia Morris, of the United Concerned Citizens of Prichard, said she faces a $7,500 deductible, and doesn’t know how she’d pay it. “What is going to happen to us?” Morris asked. “We have worked all of our lives and retired. There seems to be no hope for us.”

John Williams, the president of the Mobile Home Builders Association, said builders have been forced to construct stronger houses by new building codes, with a promise that residents of stronger houses would have an easier time finding coverage. He suggested insurers weren’t keeping their end of the deal. “The underlying goal of the insurance industry is not safety,” Williams said. “It’s to have no insurance claims.”

Fairhope Mayor Tim Kant, who suggested tax credits or favorable rates for senior citizens, said demands for ever-stronger building codes were unworkable. “Building concrete bunkers and cutting down all the trees in Fairhope is not an option,” Kant said. “We need relief now, not six more years of talking about it.”

After hearing from consumers, the commission agreed, among other things, to appoint a special panel to explore multi-state solutions. State Rep. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay, has been added to the panel, giving it 31 members

People who would like to send comments to the panel can write to: Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission
c/o Alabama Department of Revenue
4112 Gordon Persons Building
50 North Ripley St.
Montgomery, AL 36132

Posted 8/30/2011

Gov. Robert Bentley urges consensus-building as insurance panel launches

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Gov. Robert Bentley charged the members of his insurance commission Monday to go forth, listen, and bring back solutions that meet broad agreement.

“The customers that are in this state, they need choice and they need affordability,” Bentley told the first meeting of the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission. “I want you to be willing to go to different areas of the state and hear those people in those areas.”

He also told the group that reaching a consensus among consumers, insurers and other participants would be key to his calling a special state legislative session to enact reforms.

“I promised I would call a special session if you come up with a set of bills that everyone can agree with,” the governor said, adding that he didn’t want to risk the hundreds of thousands of dollars required for a special session without clear lines of agreement.

Three members who hadn’t been previously announced attended Monday’s meeting — Mobile County Engineer Joe Ruffer, who oversees the county’s building code enforcement; Clanton attorney Elizabeth Huntley and Montgomery resident Tom Malone. That brings the announced number of commission members to 30, including the chairman, Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell.

Read full article here

Posted 8/2/2011

Gov. Bentley adds 3 more to Alabama's state insurance panel

Jeff Amy, Press-Register Jul 13, 2011 - Show original item

Gov. Robert Bentley has added 3 more people to the panel that will examine the state’s insurance market and recommend improvements. they include: Rep. Joe Faust, R-Fairhope, Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Gallion, also a State Farm Insurance Cos. agent, & Darius Foster, a nonprofit executive and Republican activist who lives in Birmingham.

Spokesperson Ardis said no more additions are planned. She said Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell, the group’s chairman, is working on scheduling the first meeting. The group is supposed to develop recommendations for a special legislative session that Bentley has pledged.

 Posted 7/13/2011

Gov. Bentley names 24 to insurance reform commission

Gov. Robert Bentley has named 24 people to a panel to examine and recommend improvements to the state’s insurance market, a commission meant to lead up to a special session of the Legislature on the subject that Bentley pledged.

The Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission will be led by Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell, as reported earlier by the Press-Register. It also includes state Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling, state Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee, lawmakers, insurance agents, policyholders and representatives of three insurers, according to information obtained Friday.  Other members are State Sen. Ben Brooks, State Rep. Steve McMillan, HHII's Michelle Kurtz, and Carl Schneider.

Russel said he hoped to again put forward the idea of a captive insurance company that could accumulate reserves tax-free and provide less expensive reinsurance to companies covering Alabama homeowners.

"I’m looking to get bills on paper that we can vote on in a special session," said state Sen Ben Brooks, R-Mobile. Brooks has successfully passed several bills, and has others that he hopes to make law. Brooks said he expected a special session in October or November, which implies three or four months for the commission to complete its work.

"The commission needs to give hope to citizens that insurance will live up to its calling to provide the way to recover after a catastrophe," said Michelle Kurtz of the Homeowners’ Hurricane Insurance Initiative, a citizens’ group pushing for lower rates.

Read complete 7/9/2011 article by Jeff Amy, Press-Register

Posted 7/9/2011

Baldwin County's Tim Russell likely to lead Bentley's insurance reform panel

Jeff Amy, Press-Register Jul 7, 2011 - Show original item

Gov. Robert Bentley could name an insurance reform task force before the end of the week, spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis said Wednesday. "We are working on it and we are very close to having all of the committee members in place," Ardis said.

Others in line to join the panel are state Sen. Ben Brooks,, a Mobile Republican who has authored a series of insurance changes, and state House Insurance Committee Chairman Mike Hill, a Columbiana Republican, McMillan said. Michelle Kurtz of Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Initiative also indicated that Bentley was considering her for a spot. Mobile insurance agent Carl Schneider has also said he is under consideration.

Posted 7/7/2011

National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies expressed its support

By Diana Rosenberg, senior associate editor, BestWeek

MONTGOMERY, Ala. April 07 (BestWire) — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed an order to create a commission to study the cost of homeowners' insurance for people living in coastal areas.

Seven individuals, who have yet to be named, will serve on the Coastal Insurance Commission, to make recommendations how to make homeowners' insurance more "affordable and comprehensive," according to the governor's order.

"We hope that out of this commission will come definitive action," said Michelle Kurtz, community consultant for the Homeowners' Hurricane Insurance Initiative, a group of residents in the coastal counties of Mobile and Baldwin.

Kurtz said the organization wasn't looking for another commission, noting there previously have been two others, with plenty of studies and "lots of great ideas."

The Homeowners' Hurricane Insurance Initiative, whose members have served on previous panels, hasn't been contacted by the governor's office about the new one, she said. The group's steering board will meet in the coming days to discuss whether to volunteer.

The group, which is sponsored by the Baldwin Churches Community Organization, supports legislation, SB 2, known as the Property Insurance Clarity Act, which would require insurance companies to provide policy and premium information, including the number of policies written, direct earned premiums and direct incurred losses, to the department of insurance. When Bentley ran for governor, he promised the group he would support the bill, Kurtz said.

The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies expressed its support."We believe the commission should focus on a balanced, free-market approach, with emphasis on long-term solutions that benefit individuals and communities," Liz Reynolds, state affairs manager for the Southeast for NAMIC, said in a statement. "Risk-based pricing, actuarially sound rates, and loss mitigation should be the core of any proposed solution. Any reforms to the current regulatory system should have the objective of attracting capital, not scaring it away."

The companies with the largest market share in the Alabama homeowners multiperil market in 2009 were State Farm Group, with a 26.14% market share; Alfa Insurance Group, with a 19.14% share; Allstate Insurance Group, with a 10.8% share; Farmers Insurance Group, with a 9.12% share; and Travelers Group, with a 5.63% share, according to BestLink, which provides online access to A.M. Best's database of insurance information.

Posted 4/12/2011

Bring everybody to the table on insurance issue

The Press-Register's 4/10/2011 editorial disappoints in its support of yet another commission to study coastal insurance.  No mention is made of bringing HHII to the table and none of the solutions proposed will achieve the most important goal of bringing about significant reduction in premiums NOW.

Read PR editorial

Posted 4/11/2011

Governor Bentley Creates Coastal Insurance Commission

On April 6, Governor Robert Bentley signed an Executive Order creating a commission to study and address the rising cost of insurance for coastal homeowners. The Governor’s Coastal Insurance Commission will address the need for affordable and comprehensive insurance for Alabama’s residents on the gulf coast and make recommendations to the Governor.

“The lack of affordable homeowners insurance for people who live on Alabama’s coast impacts the entire state far beyond the coastal communities in which their homes are located.” Governor Bentley said. “We must stop the rising cost of coastal insurance for the benefit of all Alabamians.”

The Governor’s Coastal Insurance Commission will consist of seven members appointed by the Governor. The Commission will make reports to Governor Bentley at his request.

Read Mobile Register reporter Jeff Amy's article

Leave your comments on the HHII Forum

Updated 4/7/2011

HHII PRESS RELEASE ON AHIC REPORT

Re: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission Report and Press Conference

For Immediate release: February 13, 2013
For more Information Contact: Dan Hanson – 251-767-0106 or Earl Janssen at
251-955-6191 or 251-550-5039

Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Initiative (HHII) has repudiated the AHIC report. It does not provide the creative, thorough, deep thinking that is needed and that is because AHIC had a faulty process. The commission had a majority of insurance industry people on it, so instead of free-wheeling deliberation that would lead to well developed solutions, we had a couple of moments of discussion that were closed down by participants.

In a meeting with the Governor, July 23, 2012, HHII encouraged three solution strategies that will solve the problem:

1)  enforcement of fairness once the Clarity Law data is published in 2013;  

2)  a grassroots-led multi-state compact for catastrophe wind insurance, and

3)   robust funding for poor and middle class homeowners for mitigation with significant discounts to premiums that justify the mitigation expenditures of taxpayers' money, whether that be grants, loans or personal financing.

The Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission (AHIC) started out well but did not finish the job. None of the proposals brought forth by AHIC will fix the coastal insurance crisis. In their last meeting, several commission members said they had no intention of solving the coastal insurance crisis. The comments of some at the last meeting can be viewed here.

In the first meeting of AHIC, Governor Robert Bentley, more than nine times, asked the commission to solve the crisis. After being present at every AHIC meeting and reviewing the AHIC preliminary report, HHII has to call into question whether or not the Governor and the people of Alabama have been well served by this commission. HHII looks forward to working with the governor on actual solutions in the future.

Additional documents accompanying press release

Opinion written by Michelle Kurtz, HHII representative on AHIC

I was a part of the Governor's commission on Affordable Homeowners' insurance and I was outraged by the lack of vision and the lack of orderly process. There were some obvious mistakes.

1) I believe that the foxes were guarding the hen house. There was a majority of commissioners who had in one way or another currently or had been working for the insurance industry. Over time it became clear that those who might have been appointed to represent consumers, or non-insurance interests were the very people that quit attending the commission meetings. Also, there is a big difference between a person who represents a consumer group and is expected to reflect the values and opinions of thousands, vs. independent consumers and their own personal opinions. I saw that the independent consumers on the commission were not accountable to anyone. What was absolutely ridiculous was the defense that the insurance industry people made when I stated that the commission was stacked. Several insurance people stated that they were offended by this remark because they were consumers also. Was that supposed to neutralize the fact that their paychecks were dependent on protecting the insurance companies?

2) Numbers need to be manageable. AHIC was destine to fail with a group as large as 32 commissioners, plus three academics, three moderators, 3 – 6 consistently attending insurance lobbyists and various members of HHII in attendance. Topics could not be explored in depth with a group this large.

3) If you don't show up, you are off the commission – this should have been the rule. This commission should be taken very seriously – people's futures are at stake.

4) The dominant voice of the insurance industry on AHIC drowned out the simple suggestion that the final report draw a direct connection between what was heard at the listening meetings to the proposed solutions. This simple process was drowned out.

5) The dominant voice of the insurance industry on AHIC did not allow for establishing of facts and deliberation, which would have allowed for informed crafting of solutions. The day that the last educational presentation from a national expert was finished, AHIC was broken down into predetermined committees, which would determine the allowable possible solutions, by the dominant voice of the insurance industry. The dominant voice also did not allow a representative from the only consumer group to be on each committee. Everyone one knows that if you control definitions you control the outcome. The same could be said if you control the categories of solutions.

More, more was needed!!

1) More vision – this is America and if you don't solve the problem, it is because you don't want to!! I lived in ex-communist countries as a missionary for 12 years and I know, I feel in my bones, the potential that America has.

2) More participation of educated consumers not in any way attached to the insurance industry.

3) More time to consider and work with the amazing expertise that the AHIC was given.

If the recommendations to the Governor do not solve your problem of affordable, reliable and available homeowners' insurance then demand that the governor throw his support behind the grassroots work being done by hundreds of people involved with the HHII initiative.

 

Letter to Governor Bentley by HHII Founding Member Stan Virden (to which the governor has not responded)

5 December 2012
The Hon. Dr. Robert J. Bentley, Governor
Alabama State Capitol
600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, Alabama 36130

Dear Governor Bentley:

When you were running for the Republican nomination to your current office you met in Spanish Fort with an assemblage provided by the Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Initiative (HHII). At that time you declared yourself at one with Gulf Coast residents, stating that the property insurance crisis in Mobile and Baldwin Counties absolutely had to be fixed and pledging to do so. On the basis of your promise we rallied the Lower Alabama public to support your election.

Prior to and following your election you met privately, here and in your office, with HHII leadership, reiterating your pledge. You stated your priorities as first, establish the budget; second, fix the insurance crisis. You then formed the third gubernatorial commission to study the issue and recommend solutions. At its inaugural meeting you repeatedly charged this body with a duty to “fix the problem.” Meetings dragged on over many months, poorly attended by many of your appointees. As they concluded this entirely ineffectual process, members representing your administration resignedly insisted that you had never expected the commission to provide a solution, and that a problem that had taken years to develop could not be resolved overnight. In fact, the problem did arise over a very short period following Hurricane Katrina, after which premiums here rose between 300% and 600%. We have your instructions to fix the problem and your staff’s denials recorded on videos that have been widely distributed. At best, your staff representatives did not pay attention; at worst, they testified that you had committed a most serious breach of ethics.

The two most prominent recommendations arising from your commission were to create an academically based insurance institute, and to pursue a program of residential fortification to mitigate future storm damage. The proposed institute would be a clear and extravagant, self-serving boondoggle dominated by the very industry guilty already of fleecing the public. That idea must be discarded out of hand. Residential fortification, which you have publically endorsed, addresses a long term need pertaining to some 225,000 homes. It seems unrealistic to believe that BP money will be sufficient to cover even a fraction of the cost. This is a desirable generational solution best addressed through building codes applied to new and remodeled structures.

To be sure, there are innovative construction techniques that hold great promise for wind resistance. They are pricey. A few persons with money and an eye on reduced premiums have clear cut their properties and built bunker quality homes. That is not a widely available approach. In fact, HHII has searched in vain for ANYONE who has benefitted significantly in reducing premiums through fortification. On the specific advice of a prominent advocate of mitigation, I personally paid to have my house inspected by a qualified and licensed construction evaluator. His written report to me stated that there was no way my home could be raised to the minimum bronze standard, because the configuration of my very sturdy metal roof prevented installation of a secondary barrier. Since being built in 1996, my home has endured some nine named storms without damage or claim. But it must be substantially rebuilt in order to meet minimum fortification standards. Where is the economy in that? Obviously, mitigation, as a short term solution for the many who now suffer from piratical insurance practices, is a purely evasive political nostrum.

There are several reasonable and equitable actions within your executive powers that you personally can initiate, short-term, to relieve the financial stress on your Lower Alabama constituents:

Clarity Law. This legislation, under industry pressure, was stripped down to an almost toothless state before you signed it. Nevertheless, it does provide some basis for the public that hires government to evaluate its effectiveness in regulating fair distribution of wind and fire premium burdens throughout the state. It needs to be implemented on a strict basis with little room for excuse, delay, or exemption.

 Premium Rate Approvals. In filing for premium rate approvals, no insurance company should be allowed use of a computer-based model that, over the course of three consecutive years, has exaggerated wind damage predictions by more than 100% of actual experience.

DOI Leadership. Upon taking office you stated that the current hold-over insurance commissioner was to be retained only temporarily. He and his staff have been very forthright in shielding the insurance industry from the consumers they “serve.” Top leadership in the Department of Insurance must be replaced by executives with proven track records of consumer advocacy and protection. Experience in the insurance industry should be a disqualification for such office. Any competent leader can become acquainted with insurance industry basics in short order. [Full disclosure: I was a licensed insurance agent and mutual funds broker for ten years until I could no longer tolerate the sales practices demanded of me. I finally resigned to take employment as a lay professional within the Episcopal Church].

 Multi-state Compact. HHII has created an effort to bind together a fifty-mile wide coastal band extending from Maine to Texas. So far, grass roots organizations from seven of the seventeen affected states have signed on. This compact can be created and operated only from the grassroots, not from top down, but it must have encouragement and support from the governors involved. You can take the lead in recruiting other governors’ endorsements. The region defined contains one quarter of the U.S. population. Consolidated it would become a huge insurance market. Through use of unified rules and shared risk, it can substantially reduce premiums throughout. Permissive federal legislation may be necessary, but if the states agree to it and the politicians otherwise stay out of it, this self-governing band has potential to nullify the effects of offshore reinsurers and to provide reasonable and equitable premium rates for consumers within its boundaries. Why not stand out as a national leader in establishing such a compact?

Those of us living in Lower Alabama have grown weary of platitudes, trivial legislation, and commissions that get us nowhere. Our economy is stagnating from inability to conduct reasonable and necessary real estate transactions and from siphoning of excessive premium dollars from our region to concerns out of state and out of country. Meanwhile, world-wide, insurance industry leaders are happily popping Champaign corks on board their megayachts in celebration of astonishing record profits. In the coastal band, since Katrina, they have collected an estimated $56 to $100 billion in hurricane insurance premiums, alone, they have paid out something less than $10 billion in hurricane claims. That seems lopsided for the only industry that does not even pay interest to acquire its operating capital. We fixed income consumers, at the same time, facing continuous premium increases, also must deal with sharply rising costs of food, fuel, college, and health care along with new pressures from taxation.

Unequal premium tax is grossly unfair to homeowners who cannot get coverage from domestic carriers. Alabama tax policy already has a disproportionate effect on those with lower incomes. Our county, a primary contributor to state-wide education, still raised sales tax to 10% to support our schools. This hit hard on those whose incomes go largely for survival, including groceries. Yet our state allowed the AEA to block modernization that would have made schools less costly and more effective. You have signed legislation that virtually eliminates the homestead exemption for seniors. Who knows what may soon take place at the federal level? What comes first, the citizen or the government it supposedly hires? We desperately need to reduce government, not enlarge its coffers. We have begun to feel powerless under the rule of plutocracy. Where is the leader who will act to restore the basics of American democracy?

Very respectfully,
Frank S. Virden
Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.)

Posted 2/13/2013

HHII VOTES AGAINST SPECIAL INSURANCE COMMISSION REPORT TO GOVERNOR

After surveying its senior leadership in Alabama’s coastal counties, the Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Initiative (HHII) reluctantly asked its representative on Governor’ Robert Bentley’s Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission (AHIC) to vote against approval of the report the commission plans to give the governor.

Michelle Kurtz, the HHII representative voted against the report at an AHIC meeting August 17 in Montgomery. Hers was the only dissenting voice. She said it was a good progress report, but without stating solutions to the coastal insurance crisis, it did not “serve the governor, coastal families or the people of Alabama.”

Several members of the commission said they did not think the commission was supposed to find solutions to the crisis.

When Governor Bentley gave marching orders the first AHIC meeting August 1, 2011, he said nearly 10 times that he wanted the commission to try to “solve” the coastal insurance crisis.

The report is the product of a faulty process which did not foster the creative, thorough, deep thinking required by the commission’s charter. “Informed deliberation that could have led to well-developed solutions degenerated to palliatives that do not solve the clearly-defined crisis,” Stan Virden, an HHII founding member from Gulf Shores, said.

Instead of in-depth deliberation that led to well-developed solutions, the commission’s report delivers a host of various suggestions “that nibble around the edges of the issue,” Virden said. At best, two or three of the suggestions serve as useful starting points for further discussion.

“From one who sat thru most of the meetings, any dialogue that would bring about fruitful change in the industry was quickly shot down by the insurance industry representatives and some of the legislative members would sit on their collective hands and not speak-up or try and start any dialogue,” Earl Janssen, a Foley resident and founding member of HHII, said.

Colin Keleher, a Fairhope resident who is part of the senior leadership, said he “could have told you this wouldn't work. The commission was set up to fail by the number of commissioners and who they represent.”

A majority of the commission members have insurance industry ties.

In a recent meeting with Governor Bentley and his staff, HHII said it has identified three solution strategies that will solve the problem. One is the governor’s good-faith enforcement of the recently-passed Clarity Law. The second is a grassroots-led, multi-state coastal insurance compact.

The third is robust funding of a homeowners mitigation initiative, irrevocably tied to ethically-balanced premium and deductible reductions. Mitigation is a standard industry term that refers to reinforcing houses to make them more hurricane resistant.

None of the proposed solutions require other parts of Alabama to subsidize coastal insurance premiums.

According to several HHII members, the meeting with the governor offered hope of forward movement. “The working relationship that we are establishing with the Governor and his office will lead to productive solutions,” AC Leggett, a member of the Mobile senior leadership, said. Her view reflected the opinion of all who attended the meeting with the governor.

HHII is the only grassroots consumer group with a representative appointed to the governor’s commission: Kurtz. She was often the only voice challenging from a consumer point of view faulty process and at times an insurance industry-dominated discussion.

HHII will continue to work tirelessly on this issue until coastal insurance premiums have gone down significantly.

HHII is an initiative composed of families impacted by the crisis. In addition to more than 100 meetings with various officials and experts, it has developed a multi-state relationship with similar coastal organizations in states ranging from Texas to Maine.

 Posted 8/18/2012

FELLOW COMMISSIONER CALLS HHII REPRESENTATIVE'S EFFORTS 'SILLY' & 'SNIPPY'

A fellow member of Governor Bentley's Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission has referred to efforts by Michelle Kurtz to focus the agenda,  as "silly emails" and "snippy."  Kurtz represents HHII, the Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Initiative on the Commission. The remarks were made by her co-chariman on the Agenda Committee.

As a former Presbyterian Missionary with a masters degree that prepared her well for developing strong deliberative processes, she has struggled to get the Agenda Committee to meet the number of times necessary to help the Commission create a healthy problem-solving process.

Two prior governors' commissions have failed to fix the coastal insurance problem, and some HHII members believe unhealthy process played a role in their failure.

Kurtz has struggled,to have the Commission establish intentional time at the beginning of its study to clearly define the insurance problem.  In conversations outside the Commission individuals in the past have said the problem is that coastal residents don't know how to shop for insurance or that they made poor choices moving to Mobile or Baldwin counties. Kurtz was successful in getting the Commission to take deliberative time and a first step toward clearly defining the problem, but has not been successful yet getting them to refine the statement. 

She has also tried to get the Commission to take intentional time to sort facts from opinions before it begins deliberating on solutions. To date she has not been successful. Nor has she been successful getting the Commission to agree to explicitly discuss how its proposed solutions will fix the coastal insurance problem. (And to record the results of that discussion in its minutes.)

HHII's steering committee has been privy to all Michelle's communications and not once has she been "snippy" nor has she worked in a way that could be accurately called "silly."

Posted 11/20/2011

Gov. Robert Bentley's insurance commission:
Legislation better late than never

Alabama Homeowners Insurance Commission is currently in "education phase," package of bills could be presented in regular session

Members of Gov. Robert Bentley’s Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission are still optimistic about solving the state’s epidemic of skyrocketing premiums and dropped policies, even if it takes a few months longer than expected. Originally hoping to convene in a special session in December or January, it’s more likely the commission won’t be prepared until the next regularly scheduled legislative session begins Feb. 7.

But State Sen. Ben Brooks and Rep. Steve McMillan, two of nearly 30 people who have been actively engaged in the commission since its inception in April, said a package of bills already exists that could be presented to a special session if necessary. Yet both would prefer to wait until the commission’s work is complete and a handful of additional bills were drafted to strengthen the package. “We have a bill now that deals with matters of transparency, a bill that mandates the restructure of the state wind pool, and one that provides incentives for increased availability and affordability of insurance,” Brooks said. “But other ideas are on table that would address how deductibles are handled, would provide funding for grants to retrofit homes, could create a new class of policies, or possibly promote a regional interstate cooperative.”

The commission sought initial public comment from an overflow crowd in Mobile Aug. 29 before moving to sparsely-attended forums in Dothan, Decatur, Tuscaloosa and Guntersville. The education phase began in Montgomery Nov. 7 with an “Insurance 101” presentation from State Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridley and a legislative update from Brooks. There are two more education meetings scheduled Nov. 21 and Dec. 12 which will discuss a state-backed loan program, reinsurance and risk modeling, among other things.

Reportedly, a few commissioners, those who aren’t elected officials or employees of the insurance industry, are seeking additional education sessions, citing the complexity of the issues. “We are in an education phase now to make sure that everyone is up to speed, but time is becoming a consideration,” McMillan said. “Frankly, I was disappointed with the public participation at the meetings in the northern part of the state, and maybe some of those meetings were unnecessary, but soon it’s going to be time to start working on something substantive.”

Rep. Joe Faust, also a member of the commission, is pushing for a captive insurance option, which would allow individual counties to apply for coverage. “I’ve been dealing with this for five years so these education meetings are very boring to me,” he said. “I appreciate sharing that information with everyone else, but it’s time to quit cutting bait and get to fishing.”

Dan Hanson, who along with commission member Michelle Kurtz is a consumer advocate with the Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Initiative, said that if the commission isn’t thorough, it will fail. “I know we can’t put this off for another year but we want to take the time needed to find the proper solutions,” Hanson said. “Consumer representatives are at an extreme disadvantage and we are constantly being reminded that every commissioner is serving on a volunteer basis. But if they don’t have the time to spend on it then maybe they shouldn’t have volunteered to begin with.”

Hanson argues that despite public perception, high premiums along the coast are a statewide problem that will require sacrifices from each and every county. “Sixty-five of 67 counties in the state declared states of emergency after Hurricane Ivan, yet we only saw that exponential rise in deductibles along the coast,” he said. “We’ve got substantial evidence that risk models that were used after Hurricane Ivan under-reported damage upstate as much as 400 percent. So they are in this too.” “I don’t know if it was productive for us to hold the listening sessions in some parts of the state that aren’t dealing with the same issues we are on the coast,” he said.

In the meantime, commissioners are convening in a series of “education meetings,” which are meant to make sure everyone is up-to-speed on issue.

State Rep. Steve McMillian, who serves on the commission along with about 30 other people from around the state, said he would propose five citizen forums.

Posted 11/19/2011

AFFORDABLE HOMEOWNERS' INSURANCE COMMISSION
EDUCATIONAL SESSION

The Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission (AHIC) is having an education session for the commissioners on Monday, November 7th. This would be great information for you right from the Department of Insurance and Senator Ben Brooks. Citizens can observe and if you want to join us you can either organize a van pool (HHII is unable to provide transportation) or you can view the sessions live by means of U-Stream on your computer. You will need an internet connection. We will send out the link later in the week.

The AHIC is in process of calling experts to present at this session. HHII wants Karen Clark to present because she challenges the accuracy of the Catastrophe models. At this point in time, the AL DOI does not want her to present. WHY?  View Karen Clark's Presentation on Model Limitations & click here to read more about hurricane risk modeling and its limitations

It is possible for this commission to do its work and no one would ever know. The struggles of the only church based citizen's group on a commission with a majority of its members coming right out of the insurance industry is not being fully reported in the papers. The newspaper reports miss the debates, issues and tension points in the commission's deliberation. You need to judge if this commission is serving the Governor and YOU. By coming to this session, you will learn the basic vocabulary of insurance and why your premiums are going up. Your HHII representative on the commission will share with you what is happening and we will discuss how you can respond to the work of the commission. You can have a great influence on this commission. Don't stay home!!

Posted 10/30/2011

PRESENTERS FOR AHIC EDUCATION PHASE

HHII has asked the commision to approach the undernoted experts to make presentations during the education phase.

Robert Hunter with Consumer Federation of America.  Ex-Texas DOI      commissioner.

Amy Bach with United Policyholders of America

Karen Clark with the catastrophe modeling company of Karen Clark &      Company

Gene Taylor, ex-US Senator of Mississippi who promoted the Multi Peril bill

Pat Maroney, who works for the Florida Hurricane Commission and could            report on the viability of a multi-state solution.

Posted 10/21/2011

MEET THE AHIC COMMISSIONERS

Watch HHII-TV production on YouTube

Governor Bentley appointed a 30-member Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission which is supposed to fix the coastal and upstate insurance crisis. (This is the Commission that listened during a meeting at the Mobile Convention Center as dozens of speakers from a crowd of 700 people described insurance injustices they personally experience in the coastal counties.)

This special Commission held its first organizational meeting in Montgomery in late August. Each member of the Commission introduced him or herself and said a few words. Each gave their occupation. We edited the 90 minutes down to six. Count how many are tied to the insurance industry.

Governor Bentley's words are captured at the end of the video. Watch to see: Does he call on the committee to fix the insurance crisis or just address it?

Take the few minutes needed for to get this inside glimpse of Montgomery at work. Then . . . . . .help HHII and others figure out what to do next.  Come to an HHII meeting near you and share your opinion.

Posted 10/2/2011

INSURANCE COMMISSION HEARS
BALDWIN & MOBILE COUNTIES' PAIN LOUD AND CLEAR

Picture & additional material from article by

Hundreds showed up hoping to let the Commission hear their stories of pain and frustration.  Time constraints limited the number who could speak but Sen. Ben Brooks was fair and efficient in managing the time allocated and calling individuals to the microphone.

The meeting was opened with prayer, as HHII had requested.  One speaker later expressed his appreciation and said he believed lack of prayer contributed to the moral terpitude plaguing the insurance issue.

Many of the stories echoed those on HHII's Stories page.  Other speakers stressed this was not just an issue for homeowners but for small business owners, too, who could not  absorb the increased cost for insurance.

Carolyn Vaisin of Fairhope said, “I just can’t understand where the insurance companies have any liability except if our homes are taken completely off the slab." Vaisin, who is on a retirement income, said her premiums increased from $2,000 to $7,500 before she found a company that lowered it to just under $5,000 per year. “We’ve got to get back to reality. It’s a terribly unfair situation.”

Stan Virden, representing the Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Initiative, said, “some of us are paying six times what we were before 2006. We have found that there is no sound actuarial basis for these rate increases and we need clarity on why our rates are so distorted.” Virden pointed out that this was the third state commission to study insurance reform, but “the major thing that has been suggested so far is fortification, which we support, but many of us do not have homes that can be raised to that level. We need the commission to come up with recommendations that will fix premiums today if you want to fix the problem."

The need for transparency, and passage of the Transparency Bill, was repeatedly stressed.  Mayor Kant said Department of Insurance (ADOI)members should be elected like the PUC, and that insurance books should be open for public inspection when rate increases are requested.

Starke Irvine, speaking on behalf of the Baldwin County Association of Realtors, echoed that urgency, and said his group was strongly in favor of passing the Property Insurance Clarity Bill, which would require insurers to be more transparent by providing data about policies and premiums written in the state along with actuary and risk calculation information.

“What (the clarity bill) would do, in my opinion, is solve a problem that the insurance companies have developed themselves in the area of trustworthiness and dependability.” Irvine, who served on the Alabama Insurance Commission for seven years, said a similar bill is in place in Texas and it would be easy to implement given today’s digital infrastructure. “We want to see what you collect and what you pay out. We think that’s a fair thing to ask for, so when you tell me my premium is going up 500 percent I’ll understand it better,” said Irvine.

Several speakers questioned the effectiveness of the ADOI in protecting the consumers' interests or expressed the opinion that the department was beholden to the insurance industry and its lobbyists.  Although these remarks were not intended as a personal attack on Commissioner Ridling, he was clearly discomfitted by most of what he heard.

Among the suggestions for reducing premiums were allowing the purchaser to decide and buy only the coverage they needed, not what the insurance company said they had to have; and determining reconstruction costs base on actual local - not national - averages.

See more comments concerning the meeting on the HHII Forum

Revised 9/3/2011

Governor's insurance reform commission meeting in Mobile

From 8/29/2011 article

Dan Hanson of the grassroots organization Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Initiative said the goal of the August 29 meeting would be two-fold.

“We need to first of all define the problem, so every member of this commission understands what’s unfair and unreasonable about the current insurance situation,” Hanson said. “We also want them to understand that from our point of view, if they fail to lower premiums and get them in line with the rest of the state or other coastal areas, they have failed as a commission.”

Hanson said ultimately, he would like to see the commission endorse the Property Insurance Clarity Bill, which the legislature could pass in a special session. The bill would require the insurers to be more transparent by providing data about policies and premiums written in the state and actuary and risk calculation information.

“We should not be forced to subsidize the rest of the state,” Hanson said. “We’ve always been here and hurricanes have always been here so we’re not convinced the difference is justified.”

Hanson said the HHII has met with nearly 4,000 people at community meetings during the last two years.

Posted 9/3/2011

FIRST MEETING OF GOV. BENTLEY'S AFFORDABLE HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE COMMISSION

 Michelle Kirtz of HHII at first meeting of Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission


Thirty-five people from Mobile and Baldwin counties rode HHII-provided church buses and cars to Montgomery for the first meeting. Two people from BISCO, a south Louisiana organization of church-based community-improvement organizations affiliated with HHII attended, too. Their presence illustrated that a smattering of national interest has begun to focus on this commission. Insurance companies have suddenly begun doing things similar to what they’re doing to Alabama’s coastal counties to coastal counties from the Mexican border to Massachusetts.

Read official minutes of meeting here
Read HHII's view of the meeting here

Revised 8/22/2011

HHII GOES TO MONTGOMERY

The first session of the Alabama Governor's insurance commission met yesterday and we saw little lights of hope.
 
There were 37 from HHII & two representatives from our sister organization in Louisiana - BISCO!!!  We made a big difference!  Stan Virden was able to make a short speech on the floor.
 
Governor Bentley repeated at least four times that we must “solve” this insurance problem – not address, not study – but SOLVE. That is a good start.

And the chair of the commission is promoting a State captive or some sort of mechanism for homeowners and another captive as a way to do reinsurance.

So, nothing definite, but an indication that there MIGHT be a better atmosphere than ever before to consider new ideas. Plus, US Representative Bonner for the State of Alabama wants to explore solutions at the Federal level. HHII is very hopeful.

 Updated 8/8/2011

Alabama Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission. E&I is proud to congratulate coalition member Homeowners' Hurricane Insurance Initiative (HHII) on their appointment to Governor Bentley's Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission. Michelle Kurtz will represent HHII on the commission, and as a community we look forward to hearing more about this important work and progress. The first commission meeting is scheduled for August 1st.

Posted 8/13/2011

HHII GOES TO MONGOMERY

The Governor's newly-appointed Affordable Insurance Commission is covered up with insurance company interests. More than half the 27 members are directly tied to the insurance industry. The consumer is barely visible. Maybe this governor's commission (this is the third governor's commission) will fix our crisis.  Maybe not.  One of the best ways to push for honest solutions is for the public to watch every move.

Revised 9/18/2011

HHII News Release

For immediate release – July 9, 2011

Representatives of the Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Initiative (HHII), the faith-based, grassroots political group that has fought for more affordable property insurance, today thanked the Governor for appointing one of their members, Michelle Kurtz, to the Governor’s Commission on Insurance.

HHII had been promised representation when it met with the Governor on Feb. 16, Janssen said and we are grateful to be able to serve.

“In Baldwin and Mobile counties, at least 52 thousand homes are now without wind and hail protection because insurance companies have been allowed to simply walk away from this protection while dramatically raising rates in coastal counties for fire and theft insurance, said Janssen. After the disaster up north with the tornados we want to be double sure we work together for lasting solutions.

“Voters are tired of being prey for wealthy insurance interests,” he said.

“In the past, most appointees to insurance commissions have been foxes in the homeowner henhouse. Although outnumbered and outspent, HHII will fight to assure the Commission serves citizens, not lobbyists” said Janssen.”

“The insurance industry lobby has been able to distinguish itself as the only business, except baseball, without the consumer protections of federal anti-trust laws. They can legally collude to set prices and selling conditions. HHII will endeavor to work so that insurance returns to its original vocational calling in society – to provide a future and a hope!” Janssen said.

Janssen stressed that the efforts of the homeowners group are aimed at reducing premiums of all Alabamians, significant reduction of premiums, a sustainable solution, which includes mitigation and just payment of claims.

“Increasingly, minorities, the poor and the middle class are forced out of the home ownership market because of unjustified insurance cancellations driven by greed and/or an incompetent business models,” he said.

“In particular, the poor, working poor and middle class are threatened. Soon, only the uninsured wealthy who can afford to lose their homes to fire, flood or tornados will live in these areas of Alabama. This is an unacceptable disruption in the Alabama economy that must be addressed in the Governor’s upcoming special session on insurance reform.

“Unless the excesses of the virtually unregulated insurance factions are mitigated by legislative action, jobs in our state soon will be in even bigger trouble than they are now.

“Already, we have seen the unfair pricing heaped on Alabama homeowners on the coast, with premium increases often quadrupling over only a few years. This can’t continue to accelerate and we would hate to see this happen to the tornado survivors,” Janssen said.

HHII goals are significant reduction of premiums, a sustainable solution and just payment of claims.

 Posted 7/9/2011

This page last updated 2/13/2013