HomeHome InsuranceLawmaker zeroes in on rising property insurance premiums

Lawmaker zeroes in on rising property insurance premiums

Oklahoma is pretty much a disaster.

At least, that’s the way it looks to the insurance industry. Oklahoma has had 52 natural disasters since 2000, far and away the most in the U.S., according to insurer Recoop. And that doesn’t count any of the manmade earthquakes that have been rattling the state since 2009.

And that’s why Oklahoma’s property insurance premiums are among the highest — some say the highest — in the country.



State Rep. Mark Tedford, R-Tulsa, is in the insurance business himself. He can’t do anything about the wind, hail and ice that are the root cause of those escalating premiums, but he has some other ideas.

Tedford is carrying several bills this session intended to help property owners with insurance bills that have as much as tripled in the past decade or less.

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One would make available state grants to owners who upgrade existing structures to better withstand severe weather. Another would restrict the ability of insurers to cancel policies or raise rates because of claims, especially those related to weather damage.

“There’s nothing an individual can do about about wind activity,” Tedford said.

He said he’s “not real big” on measures such as premium caps, which critics say can wind up distorting the market and driving out private insurers. But he does think Oklahoma’s homeowners’ premiums can be brought under control without resorting to some of the measures seen in states like Florida and California, where state-owned or overseen special risk management pools fill coverage gaps.

HB 3089, the Strengthen Oklahoma Homes Act, providing for $10 million worth of grants “to retrofit insurable property … to resist loss due to a tornado or other catastrophic windstorm event or hail.”

HB 3090, allowing for creation of holding companies for mutual insurers, which is expected to facilitate capital formation and expand capacity.

HB 3092, prohibiting insurers from canceling policies for a single claim more than five years after issuance or rejecting an application because of a previous claim more than 5 years old.

It also prohibits insurers, under most circumstances, from canceling, refusing to renew, terminating or increasing premiums based on an insured’s claims history for weather-related events unless there have been three or more such claims within the preceding three years.

So just how expensive is homeowners insurance in Oklahoma? Insurance.com says it’s about twice as high as the national average and just slightly ahead of No. 2 Kansas. Insurance broker Policygenius reports average rate increases of 14% and 27% in the last two years for which totals are available. And that doesn’t include last summer’s Father’s Day storm that hit Tulsa with winds of 100 mph or more.

State-to-state comparisons are a little iffy because of variations in coverage. Insurance.com says Hawaii has the nation’s lowest rates, but that doesn’t include hurricane coverage, which must be bought separately. In large sections of California, wildfire coverage is available only through the state, and most earthquake insurance is sold through a quasi-government broker.

Florida is thinking about expanding the scope of its high-risk pool because of the difficulty and expense of insurance in certain areas.

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Patrick Prince

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