Insurance commissioner seeks more power over wind pool

Mississippi's insurance commissioner is pushing a bill to strip a tax subsidy and authority from the state's insurer of last resort for hurricane-prone coastal residents.

Posted: Jan 25, 2018 6:30 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi's insurance commissioner is pushing a bill to strip a tax subsidy and authority from the state's insurer of last resort for hurricane-prone coastal residents.

Commissioner Mike Chaney says the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association, known as the "wind pool," spends too much on backup insurance. The move would bolster his authority in his dispute with the board that runs the pool.

Chaney said the measure will make premium increases less likely on the pool's 25,000 policyholders in six coastal counties. Customers pay $1,700 on average to cover only wind and hail, buying insurance elsewhere that covers other risks such as fire, liability and theft.

The number of policies has been falling in recent years, in part because rates are deliberately kept high to encourage property owners to buy insurance from other carriers. Policies in the pool ballooned after 2005's Hurricane Katrina as traditional insurers balked at covering coastal risks.

House Bill 948 , sent Tuesday to the full House for more debate by the House Insurance Committee, requires the Republican Chaney's approval before the pool can buy more backup coverage, known as reinsurance, above a certain level. Chaney said he's been imploring the 11-member board that runs the pool to buy less reinsurance for years. The pool spent $38.4 million last year to buy enough coverage to cover $910 million in losses.

"Why are we buying so much reinsurance?" Chaney asked. He said his office will soon release an audit questioning how much the board buys and the rates it pays for reinsurance, saying Alabama's pool bought roughly the same amount of insurance last year, but only paid $15 million.

Pool manager Joe Shoemaker said that if the pool were to run out of money after a severe hurricane, insurance customers across the state would be forced to make up the shortfall. Shoemaker said the pool board wants to avoid such an assessment.

The bill also requires the pool self-insure at least $100 million in risk, using the $250 million the pool has built up from premiums and public subsidies. Chaney said that in years without a storm, that will allow the pool to spend less on reinsurance. Shoemaker said that move will deplete the pool's reserve if a hurricane strikes.

The bill would also divert $3 million yearly in insurance fees that have been subsidizing the pool since after 2005's Hurricane Katrina. That money would go to help buy rural fire trucks until at least 2021.

Some coastal members opposed the bill Tuesday, at least in part because they fear the pool will never regain the insurance fee subsidies if they are shifted to the politically popular fire truck program.

"This has the ability to be somewhat destabilizing for our constituents down on the coast," said Rep. Scott DeLano, a Biloxi Republican.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 253932

Reported Deaths: 5524
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17120175
Hinds16207322
Harrison13353193
Rankin10689211
Jackson10303183
Lee8796141
Madison8232162
Jones6288110
Forrest5949119
Lauderdale5847180
Lowndes5355116
Lafayette494292
Lamar484165
Washington4777123
Bolivar3966108
Oktibbeha392480
Panola368378
Pontotoc362853
Monroe3533105
Warren348498
Union343060
Marshall341665
Neshoba3370152
Pearl River327899
Leflore3002105
Lincoln297085
Sunflower282669
Tate270862
Hancock266559
Alcorn263253
Itawamba262459
Pike262077
Scott246245
Prentiss245052
Yazoo244355
Copiah240849
Tippah240450
Simpson234867
Leake230564
Coahoma230054
Grenada217770
Covington211371
Marion210672
Adams204670
Winston200164
Wayne199630
George199038
Attala193559
Newton191342
Tishomingo184459
Chickasaw183644
Jasper169735
Holmes168567
Clay159033
Stone142320
Tallahatchie140134
Clarke138660
Calhoun135721
Smith120123
Yalobusha116534
Walthall111836
Noxubee110322
Greene109729
Montgomery109434
Carroll104221
Lawrence102417
Perry101631
Amite97725
Webster92224
Tunica86321
Claiborne86125
Jefferson Davis84125
Humphreys82924
Benton81523
Kemper77120
Quitman6888
Franklin66415
Choctaw60313
Wilkinson58325
Jefferson53819
Sharkey42717
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 422598

Reported Deaths: 6120
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62039921
Mobile30225548
Madison27052186
Tuscaloosa20728267
Montgomery18978305
Shelby18504114
Baldwin16251182
Lee12465101
Morgan12233113
Etowah11735168
Calhoun11122200
Marshall10191107
Houston8598148
Cullman8023105
Limestone800274
Elmore7836101
DeKalb768397
Lauderdale754683
St. Clair7535120
Talladega6166108
Walker5897174
Jackson580341
Colbert532073
Blount530483
Autauga518455
Coffee441056
Dale396181
Franklin366248
Chilton336165
Russell330310
Covington327268
Escambia316842
Dallas303196
Chambers282769
Clarke281433
Tallapoosa2616107
Pike248729
Marion245650
Lawrence243647
Winston226635
Bibb215147
Geneva201435
Marengo199029
Pickens196531
Hale175842
Barbour172936
Butler169658
Fayette168226
Cherokee160330
Henry153621
Monroe145217
Randolph139835
Washington137626
Clay126145
Crenshaw118744
Lamar118019
Cleburne117423
Macon114735
Lowndes110335
Wilcox103121
Bullock99028
Perry97419
Conecuh94420
Sumter89026
Greene76023
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
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