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News State / Region Homeowners insurance could see rate increase

N.C. insurance commissioner protesting request for rate hike

Residents of North Carolina could soon see their home insurance rates go up if insurance companies across the state get their way.

In early January, the N.C. Rate Bureau, on behalf of those companies, requested an overall statewide increase of 25.3 percent, varying by geographic territory. According to the original request, the new rates would go into effect on August 1 of this year.

That has however been put on hold as a result of N.C. Department of Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin finding fault in the request.

“New homeowners insurance rates went into effect in July 2013. I am appalled that the insurance companies would request another increase just six months later. I believe the insurance companies should withdraw this rate filing immediate,” Goodwin said shortly after the request was made. “If they do not, the insurance companies should expect a full hearing on this matter; I will not entertain any settlement negotiations. I urge North Carolina homeowners to take advantage of the public comment period and let their insurance companies know what they think about the notion of another homeowners insurance rate increase. Also, I take offense at the insurance companies' concerted efforts to file this request late on a Friday afternoon, when they think the public won't be paying attention.”

The last increase went into effect July 1, 2013 as referenced by Goodwin. The settlement that was approved allowed for a 7 percent increase statewide. The initial request made by the Rate Bureau on behalf of the insurance companies had been 17.7 percent. That request was filed on Oct. 1, 2012. After Department of Insurance officials studied the request for an extended period of time, they declared that some increase was justified due to the steadily rising cost of reinsurance related to hurricane risks and ongoing concerns regarding availability. Despite the increase, the agreed upon seven percent resulted in an estimated $237 million in savings to policyholders.

Before the 2013 increase, the last request had occurred in 2008 when a 19.5 percent statewide increase was requested before settling on a 4.05 percent increase in May of 2009.

As a result of the newest request, more than 10,000 public comments were submitted in regards to the increase filing while Goodwin has scheduled a public hearing on August 6 in Raleigh. The hearing will be open to the public, but there will be no opportunity given to the public to speak. Cases from each side of the request will be presented as Goodwin serves as the hearing officer.

After a review of the comments that were submitted back in January, NCDOI officials have stated their belief that the increases are not justified as a result of the use of hypothetical data, rather than actual data, when calculating costs including those for the net costs of reinsurance and trended modeled hurricane loss costs.

They also say that the filing lacks necessary data, documentation and explanations to meet statutory burden of proof for rate increases and that old data is used in the filing when more recent data should be available and included in the analysis.

Many across the state may have yet to hear of the possible increase, but despite the Rate Bureau's stealth attempt at implementation, those who are beginning to catch wind of the talks are not so happy about the possibility of paying more than they already are.

“I bought a house just a while back, got the insurance set up and everything and this is the first that I have heard about a statewide increase,” says new homeowner Corey Picklesimer. “I didn't even know that something like this could happen to be honest. I knew that my company could change the rates, but I liked the idea of being able to switch to somebody new if I wanted to seek out a different product be it cheaper or whatever the reasoning. It's kind of disheartening that the companies can get together to file for an across the board increase.”

"It basically means that I can expect my monthly payment to go up so of course I'm not thrilled about that. I'll be okay, but I'm sure there will be plenty of families that will feel it and that's unfortunate. It's hard enough without rate increases every time we turn around."


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