Miss. Commissioner Approves Rate Increases Sought by Nationwide

June 19, 2006

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale has approved Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co.’s request to raise rates for homeowner insurance by an average 16.4 percent statewide.

The rate increases, sought after Hurricane Katrina ripped Mississippi’s coastal counties and left damage well inland on Aug. 29, will be higher along some portions of the Gulf Coast, Dale said.
Effective Sept. 9, Nationwide homeowner insurance rates will rise 30 percent in Harrison County south of Interstate 10 and east of U.S. 49, and 21.1 percent south of I-10 and west of 49. In Jackson County, rates will increase 20.3 percent south of I-10 and north of U.S. 90.

The company may no longer write insurance south of U.S. 90 in Jackson County, officials said.

In Hancock County, the increase is 14.3 percent south of I-10 and 10.4 percent north of I-10. The increases will go into effect at renewal dates for current customers.

Dale has said insurers must be granted increases to keep the market viable.

“It’s key to managing our risk. Our goal is to maintain long-term viability and be there for our customers in Mississippi and everywhere we do business,” Nationwide spokesman Joe Case said.

Deputy Insurance Commissioner Lee Harrell said just because Nationwide asked for rate increases in specific areas, it does not mean the company will be writing new policies there.

He also said the increases vary, partly based on what previous rates were charged.

Of the top four Gulf Coast insurers, Nationwide and State Farm Insurance Co., continue to write new wind policies, but are restricting business.

Mississippi Farm Bureau currently is not writing new homeowner business in Mississippi, and Allstate Insurance Co. is not writing new policies but will renew customers who also insure their automobiles with Allstate.

Many customers in the southern part of Mississippi are moving into the wind pool, the insurer of last resort.

Officials had said Wednesday that Mississippi will use $50 million in federal grant money to ease the sticker shock of an anticipated rate increase for wind-pool coverage of homes in the hurricane zone.

Gov. Haley Barbour said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has given the state permission to use $30 million this year and up to $20 million next year for the wind-pool expenses.

The Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association, commonly known as the wind pool, has asked Dale to approve a 397.8 percent rate increase for thousands of coastal homes. Dale said he needs two or three more weeks to decide how much of a rate increase to approve.

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