Governor Bentley's Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission - Meeting Minutes & Reports

AHIC Notices & Minutes

Media Reports

GOVERNOR BENTLEY RELEASES AHIC FINAL REPORT

After months of inaction and delay, the Governor today (2/13/2013) finally released the report which has been sitting on his desk since last August.

In addition to not communicating with HHII before going public with his decision (as his naming of a liaison indicated he would do), the Governor publicly expressed interest in only two items in the AHIC report:

1) Creation of an Insurance Institute

2) Unspecified amount of BP money to be spent on mitigation.

None of the other recommendations will have any significant or immediate effect on insurance availability or affordability.

The complete press release, with a link to the final report, and HHII's press release in response, can be read here.

Posted 2/13/2013

MORE ARTICLES ABOUT AHIC REPORT

Alabama Weighs Grants for Wind-Proofing, Creation of Insurance Research Center

Consumer group dismisses recommendations by Alabama insurance commission

Alabama insurance commission recommendations 'a joke,' consumer group says

Alabama Homeowners Insurance Report Coming Out

Posted 2/16/2013

AHIC SUB-COMMITTEES SUBMIT REPORTS

Education Sub-Committee - Concept to Create an Alabama Insurance
      Institute.

Regulatory Sub-Committee Report

Statutory Sub-Committee Report

Mitigation Sub-Committee Report

(Some reports may take several minutes to download, depending on the speed of your internet connection.)

The process which led to these reports was deeply flawed.

On April 11, 2012, the same day the AHIC heard the last of the education presentations from world class experts, Judge Russell assigned commission members to four sub-committees to "write progress reports" for the Governor. As the description of what this entailed progressed, Judge Russell added that recommendations should be included.

The commission did not meet again until June 29th at 10:00AM, when it was asked to vote up or down on three of the reports after having them less than 24 hours. The education sub-committee did not submit its Concept to Create an Alabama Insurance Institute until later. A final meeting is scheduled for August 17 to vote on a summary of these committee reports and then what?

Where is the deliberation? The legislative sub-committee (on which HHII was represented) met a total of maybe 8 hours and Sen. Brooks did a great job guiding the its work. The other sub-committees may also have met but that is not AHIC thinking together - deliberation.

Has the public been well served by the process? Has Judge Russell, the chair of AHIC, held open the space for free flowing discourse? If you have a faulty process you will have faulty data to make a decision. Establishing facts and deliberation has been eliminated. WHY?

The proposal to Create an Alabama Insurance Institute is very problematic. Why should our tax dollars support another industry dominated institute? There are a total of 8 insurance institutes in the US, how is this one going to be different? It could do more harm in that it would pretend and boast that it is helping AL, when all it is doing is guarding the insurance industry. This report was never sent out by e-mail for other commission members to review and comment. Questions about the composition of the Board and who would be deciding the research questions were cavalierly dismissed as unimportant

The mitigation report is mainly a compilation of published fortification data. There is no deep thinking on funding nor a strong legislative requirement for reduction in premiums when mitigation is done.

Revised 8/6/2012

AHIC 4/11/2012 Meeting

Attendees: Judge Tim Russell (Chair), Gary Ellis, Representative Joe Faust, Geoff Plott, Representative David Sessions, Michelle Kurtz, Representative Steve McMillan, Carl Schneider, Commissioner Julie Magee, Don Price, Jerry Workman, Tom Malone, John Caylor, Wayne Parker, Rux Bentley, Joe Ruffer, Ben Woodruff, & Joe Demos.

 Opening Remarks:

Chairman Russell began the meeting by stating that the Commission has made good progress, but that time is moving quickly, especially with the legislative session. In describing the meeting’s agenda for the day, Chairman Russell said Dr. Robert Hunter will have an hour long presentation to begin the meeting, after which the Commission will look at creating four sub-committees from the Commission. These four sub-committees will have the responsibility of writing a report which will tie in to the report which Auburn is doing for the Commission. Each sub-committee will be assigned to one of the main general categories and will submit a written report at or near June 1, 2012. Chairman Russell said this does not mean the Commission would stop; rather it means the Commission will have a report, in addition to the Auburn report, to give the Governor and legislators. The Commission’s work would continue on beyond these reports. Chairman Russell added Dr. Veal has a concept of a regional conference which he would like the Commission to discuss.

Commission member Michelle Kurtz asked about the nature of the reports and the Auburn report. Chairman Russell explained the Governor would like to have a written report on where we are and the progress which the Commission has made. Chairman Russell added there is a good deal of expertise on the Commission in areas of concern and the sub-committees can use the expertise to sharpen the focus of these areas.

Dr. Robert Hunter’s Presentation:

Dr. Hunter is the former Director of the Texas Department of Insurance. He presented his thoughts and research via telephone conference and through handouts which were provided to the Commission members. He has worked as a consultant with various states regarding “low frequency/high severity event” such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tornados. Dr. Hunter explained he has been studying these events since the 1970s.

When Dr. Hunter’s presentation and question/answer session was concluded, Chairman Russell thanked Dr. Hunter for his work and sharing his expertise and knowledge.

Representative Joe Faust addressed the Commission and stated there is agreement on the fact there is an insurance crisis in Baldwin and Mobile Counties. But the crisis is not limited to these areas and he foresees the crisis spreading across the state. In that context, he sees a need to have a meeting with all involved parties, particularly the insurance executives. Representative Faust said it’s no secret there are billions of dollars in the form of reinsurance being pumped out of this country. An earthquake in Italy or tsunami in Japan affects reinsurance which causes our rates to go up. We need a mechanism set up to keep the money at home.

Dr. Veal of Auburn distributed a report compiled by his staff. The report compiled and collapsed issues which were previously reported. Dr. Veal organized the information in a better situation which allows for better conversation and direction. The report summarizes all of the ideas in a concise report. Dr. Veal asked the Commission to take a few moments to read the report and make corrections or comments. There were questions asking to clarify some issues and their general categories. The Commission discussed its interest in the multi-state compact and additional discussion of how best to benefit from the BP money. For example the deductible funded program could be a beginning point on a regional basis, with each state’s contribution relative to its exposure.

Dr. Veal confirmed the latest report produced is a cumulative report of all issues previously agreed upon. He added this is the time to make corrections to the report. It was suggested to change “local building standards” to “Building Construction Data”.

A question was raised about the process for adding issues which weren’t previously discussed. An example is exploration of the multi-state compact. After group discussion, it was decided the sub-committees would flesh out and explore these and other ideas which are appropriate to their sub-committee’s topic.

There was discussion on how to form the sub-committees and how to allocate resources and knowledge/experience of the Commission members to best address the identified issues. After further discussion, it was decided four sub-committees would be established. There will be a sub-committee assigned to Education issues, a sub-committee assigned to Regulatory issues, a sub-committee assigned to Statutory/Legislative issues and a sub-committee assigned to Mitigation issues. Each sub-committee will have seven Commission members and a representative from Auburn. Each Commission member will send their top three preferences regarding on which sub-committee they would like to serve. Chairman Russell will appoint a chairperson of each sub-committee. Each sub-committee would meet at their convenience and will issue a written report within a six week deadline (on or near June 1).

There was further discussion regarding the makeup of the sub-committees and whether or not a non-commission member would be able to serve on a sub-committee. It was decided that the sub-committees would only be comprised of Commission members and their appointed faculty advisors. Chairman Russell stated each sub-committee can use assets of whatever resources they want, but the sub-committee’s members are restricted to the members of the Governor’s appointed Commission.

After further discussion, the meeting adjourned.

Read official minutes of AHIC 4/11/2012 Meeting 

Posted 4/9/2012

ALABAMA DOI RESPONDS TO QUESTIONS
FROM AHIC COMMISSIONERS

Below are examples of DOI responses to questions that Michelle and Don Price put to them in writing.  At the moment there is no plan to straighten out the "yes-no" and "not-wrong-just different" answers. The prevailing sentiment in the room at the AHIC is that the hurricane catastrophe models are accurate and and that charging coastal customers more for fire insurance is based on sound, fair actuarial reasoning.

Question: Is it a fair representation of this DOI policy (or Alabama law) to say that in some instances the DOI permits insurance companies to charge different parts of the state different prices – and the difference in prices is based on non-actuarial reasons?

DOI Answer: Yes and No. Companies often file their actuarial indications by territory with the DOI, and the DOI never permits a company to charge a territory a higher rate than indicated. Therefore, differences in prices may be for actuarial reasons. But, as explained in the previous answer, the DOI will permit companies to charge a territory a rate lower than is indicated, reflecting that company’s marketing (i.e. non-actuarial) strategy.

Question:  Accuracy of premium rates being used is questionable since they were developed based upon modeled projected hurricane costs which the modelers have admitted are erroneous and overstated by over 40% for coastal Alabama.

DOI Answer:  The DOI doesn’t believe modelers have said the models are erroneous…..they have said that based on new data they have revised their models, which, in the case of RMS, has lowered the estimated losses on the coast. In the past, RMS estimates on the coast have been substantially higher than the AIR estimates; now they are lower than AIR estimates. Each insurer must decide whether the AIR or RMS models better reflect their exposure to loss. Some insurers use an average of the two models since they are not sure which model is better, while some insurers only use one model.  

Click on this link to read a complete list of the questions posed by Michelle Kirtz and Don Price, and answers from Alabama Department of Insurance .

Revised 4/10/2012

AHIC 3/26/2012 Meeting

Read official minutes of AHIC 3/26/2012 Meeting 

Posted 4/9/2012

AHIC 3/12/2012 Meeting

Read official minutes of AHIC 3/12/2012 Meeting 

Posted 3/19/2012

AHIC 2/29/2012 Meeting

Read official minutes of AHIC 2/29/2012 Meeting 

Posted 3/8/2012

AHIC 2/10/2012 Educational Meeting

Read official minutes of AHIC 2/10/2012 Educational Meeting 

Posted 2/26/2012

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

KAREN CLARK TO PRESENT AT DECEMBER 12
AHIC EDUCATIONAL MEETING

Karen Clark is an expert in the field of catastrophe risk assessment. She developed the first hurricane catastrophe model in 1983 but she is now worried that models are being given more credit and influence than they deserve.

Read and listen to her Presentation on Model Limitations to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.  Also read a follow up presentation on Using Catastrophe Models and Other Tools to Assess Hurricane Risk.

You can read much more about hurricane risk modeling here.

Posted 12/2/2011

AHIC 11/7/2011 Educational Meeting

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

Posted 11/17/2011

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

AHIC 10/17/2011 Listening Meeting

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

Posted 10/29/2011

AHIC 9/26/2011 Listening Meeting

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

Posted 10/6/2011

9/12/2011 Listening Meeting

Read official minutes of AHIC 9/12/2011 Listening Meeting 

 

8/29/2011 Listening Meeting

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

 

Alabama insurance commission recommendations 'a joke,' consumer group says

Read this great post reporting on HHII by Robert McClendon on AL.com.

Posted 2/14/2013

Insurance commission votes for proposals

3/27/2012 article by George Altman, al.com Capital Bureau

The Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission on Monday (3/27/2012) voted to support three proposed changes to insurance laws and made plans to decide on other proposals at a meeting next month. This marks the first time since the group was created almost a year ago that it has voted on specific bills to address insurance problems.

An insurance industry lobbyist and a grass-roots consumer group also appeared to come to agreement on what’s been dubbed the "clarity bill," a sometimes-contentious industry information disclosure measure.

Both consumer and industry advocates hailed Monday’s action as a significant step for the commission, created by Gov. Robert Bentley to address problems with insurance availability and affordability. "I’m really encouraged that we’ve made the progress that we’ve made to ... focus on specific issues and recommendations," said Rep. Steve McMillan, a Gulf Shores Republican and commission member. "It’s big, and I think it shows that we’re starting to build a consensus."

Commission approval of bills currently before the Legislature could greatly improve their chances of passing this session, lawmakers said. The group on Monday voted in favor of proposals to:

* Create catastrophe savings accounts, which would give homeowners tax benefits similar to retirement or health savings accounts on money they set aside to help pay for costs from a major storm.

* Require that insurance companies, which must by law offer premium discounts to homeowners in Mobile and Baldwin counties who build their homes to meet building codes, offer the same premium discounts to homeowners statewide.

* Allow captive insurance companies to sell auto insurance, get funding from private investors or major insurance companies, and be created statewide. Captive insurers are limited to selling policies within certain areas or to only certain policy holders and are intended to help provide coverage to people living in areas where insurance is particularly scarce or expensive.

The commission also voted to request $100 million of oil spill fine money to fund the Strengthen Alabama Homes Program, a trust fund to help homeowners pay to make their homes more storm-resistant. The state still is waiting for federal officials to direct the fine money, expected to total in the billions, to Alabama and other Gulf Coast states.

The group delayed action on the clarity bill, which would require insurers to publicly disclose the number of policies they write, the premiums they charge and the losses they incur. The information from all insurance companies would be combined and put into a database, searchable by ZIP code. Industry representatives said that not all insurers keep such information, and finding it would be costly for those that do not. But after the meeting, members of the Homeowners’ Hurricane Insurance Initiative, who support the bill, and Knox Argo, an American Insurance Association lobbyist who spoke in opposition to the measure during the meeting, agreed to a compromise. Under the compromise, insurers would have to detail how much each type of coverage, such as wind or fire, contributed to their losses, but they would not have to provide such detailed information for their premium charges and could merely show their total premiums for all types of coverage.

Sen. Trip Pittman, the Montrose Republican sponsoring the bill, said he and Argo have discussed a similar compromise in recent weeks. But representatives of Alfa Mutual Group, which may be key to the bill’s passage by the House, have not indicated how they feel about the idea, Pittman said. Efforts to reach an Alfa spokesman were unsuccessful Monday.

Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, said he thinks the commission "turned a very important corner" Monday, but he added that the work is far from over. "There’s still a long road ahead, both in the Legislature and for the insurance commission."

Read related MPR editorial here.
Read HHII commentary on proposals

Updated 3/28/2012

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

Homeowners Insurance Commission meeting in Tuscaloosa draws small crowd

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

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

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

Overflow crowd calls on insurance commission to lower rates

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

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

This page last updated 8/16/2012