Harrison County Opposes 400% Miss. Windpool Rate Increase

May 30, 2006

Harrison County, Miss. supervisors are opposed to the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association’s request to raise insurance rates by as much as 397.8 percent, but the opposition comes as no surprise to Insurance Commissioner George Dale.

The association provides coverage for high-risk homes in six counties on or near the coast.

In April, the MWUA, also known as the windpool, requested a rate increase of 397.8 percent for private dwellings insured for wind and hail damage. MWUA also is seeking a 268 percent increase for commercial property, and 60.4 percent for mobile homes. The requested increases are not for paying claims from past storms, but for additional reinsurance for the upcoming hurricane season.

The wind pool covers about 15,000 homes and businesses.
Dale hired an actuarial firm in Atlanta to analyze the rate request and has scheduled a June 5 a public hearing in Jackson on the matter. He can deny, approve or reduce the request, but must make a decision within 30 days.

Harrison County supervisors recently drafted a resolution opposing the rate hikes and recommended their peers in neighboring South Mississippi counties do the same.

“The people down here just can’t afford a 200 or 400 percent increase. No one can afford that increase,” Supervisor Bobby Eleuterius said. “It’s going to drastically affect people with mortgages on their homes.”

Supervisors also recommended state insurance regulators spread the cost across the state to decrease the overall rate hike. Eleuterius said if the gaming revenue from the Coast is spread throughout the state, why can’t some of the cost of wind pool insurance be handled likewise.

“If the people in the state wanted to help the people of the Gulf Coast, they could just take that rate increase and broadcast it to property owners across the state; it would be palatable,” said Eleuterius, who noted that was Florida’s resolution to its state insurance-rate hike.

“It would be about a 10 percent increase statewide as opposed to a nearly 400 percent increase or a 200 percent increase (on the Gulf Coast).”

Dale said the Harrison County supervisors’ resolution is just one of many he has received since MWUA announced its request. The commissioner said he has also received numerous letters in opposition to the rate hikes in South Mississippi and statewide and he is exploring every avenue available.

“I want to be fair with the people on the coast, but there are 76 other counties in the state,” Dale said.

He said policyholders throughout the state are paying higher rates to cover Hurricane Katrina claims in the wind-pool insurance. The new rate increases would be used to pay for new insurance coverage for South Mississippi wind-pool policyholders.

“The question is who should pay for the $42 million premium for the new insurance?” Dale said. “Should it be the people on the coast who are going to benefit by the fact that they are going to have windpool insurance, or should that guy in Tupelo be asked a second time to be assessed to pay for that $42 million?”

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