by Ana Maria
Last week was a banner one for homeowners all over the country. Nope, I’m not talking about the mortgage crisis which is bad enough. I’m talking about the other financial crisis that has yet to catch national attention: homeowner’s insurance policies with prices skyrocketing out of control . . . or being canceled.
Yet, property & casualty insurance costs for home and business owners have skyrocketed out of control hitting lower and middle income families with a powerful financial punch to their pocketbook whether they live inside Katrina Land or out.
In a post-Valentine’s Day gift to its homeowner customers, State Farm delivered dead flowers to its customers in Florida and New York. Yes, you read that correctly: New York. As in Long Island, New York.
New York: State Farm defends decision to terminate LI homeowner policies
This past Sunday, the Times-Picayune—a New Orleans paper—ran an article whose contents packed another heart-wrenching punch.
At Their Limit: As local homeowners insurance rates continue to rise, the elderly and others on limited incomes are fighting to keep their finances afloatTalk with any two-income income family around here, and the fight is all the same. Skyrocketing premiums for less coverage while dropping wind coverage which forces policy holders into the expensive state government wind pool.
One friend of mine got home from work the other day to find that the family's home owner’s insurance bill increased by $500 a year—and the company is only covering fire and theft! They are expecting to learn that their state government wind insurance policy will rise, too. This is in addition to the nearly $2,000 rise in premiums last year.
The 55% of Americans who live within 50 miles of the nation's coastline need wind damage coverage on their homeowners' insurance.
Whatever is happening here inside Katrina Land--from the denial of wind-related claims to the exorbitant and extortion-like premiums to being dropped as customers without cause--will eventually spread to the rest of the nation. We'd like to spare the nation's families the incredible injustice and financial rip-off that we've experienced.
In yet another post-Valentine’s Day gift, Big Insurance delivered dead flowers to those of us living inside—or trying to return to our hometowns in—Katrina Land. The card on the dead flowers essentially read as follows:
Yo, baby: No new insurance policies & dropping you long time, loyal customers at renewal time. C' ya! - Big Insurance [Read Katrina Families, Dead Flowers, and Big Insurance]Huh? Well, how else can Big Insurance protect tens of billions of dollars in annual profit flow to their boards of directors?! It's the only "insurance" about which these two-fisted greedy gutted goons apparently care. Remember the industry booked $108 billion in profit the year of Katrina and the year after.
By canceling homeowner policies or raising their premiums to exorbitant rates, it appears that members of the Big Insurance Brotherhood are essentially telegraphing that they want out of the wind insurance business. This is not the case.
What Big Insurance wants is to cherry pick from among homeowners those for whom it will drop coverage versus those it will require to pay almost extortion-like premiums . . . all the while employing various tactics to deny us payment on legitimate wind-related claims. Embedded in the fine print, Big Insurance inserts its "concurrent causation clause" into its contracts. In essence, this clause says that they won't pay for any wind damage if so much as a drop of water caused any damage to our property.
Clearly agents wouldn't sell very much if they actually mentioned this when making their pitch to us. From what was stated at the Insurance Reform Town Hall meeting last August here in my home town, agents didn't know about this ridiculous clause that would deprive homeowners of the very protection for which they were paying premiums in the first place. To hear this commentary on how Big Insurance kept their agents and their customers in the dark, see video below.
Congressman Gene Taylor explains in down-to-earth language the problem that this insurance "gotcha "clause creates for America’s homeowners.
To solve this horrible position that Big Insurance has placed America’s homeowners, Taylor sponsored the multiple peril insurance legislation to permit those homeowners who are eligible to purchase our nation’s flood insurance to have the option of buying wind coverage. The result is that the homeowner would have one policy for both wind and flood—something that the private insurance companies have chosen not to offer for the last 40 years.
Last September, Taylor's bill passed overwhelmingly and with bi-partisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives. When Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi became elected as Speaker of the House, she implemented the fiscally responsible PAYGO rule: pay as you go. Any legislation with a price tag attached to it must pay for itself. What this means for the multiple peril insurance legislation is that the rates for the wind insurance will pay for the costs of the coverage. Thank you, Congresswoman Pelosi for the return of fiscal responsibility! The bill went to the U.S. Senate where it now awaits action.
While the U.S. Senate wonders what to do about this mounting homeowner crisis, homeowners all over the nation are wondering what they are going to do about skyrocketing property insurance that is eating away like a cancer on their household’s budget.
What needs doing is rather straightforward. The U.S. Senate should simply listen to the two U.S. Senators from Louisiana and the one from New York who are championing this important bread-and-butter issue: Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA), David Vitter (R-LA), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). All three support Taylor's multiple peril insurance legislation.
While many homeowners are raising hell with their individual insurance companies, we can all raise some political hell where it will do some collective good. For today’s political hell raising activity, let’s call our two U.S. Senate offices and ask them to follow the lead of Senators Landrieu, Vitter, and Schumer.
On his re-election campaign website, Congressman Gene Taylor has a unique call-to-action piece specific to this insurance crisis that is crippling his constituents' recovery inside the Katrina-ravaged region. [To watch Mississippi Gulf Coast business leaders discussing Big Insurance's negative impact on Katrina recovery, click here.]
Taylor's website requests the following.
Please, contact your two U.S. Senators. Simply ask each U.S. Senator to become a partner with us and support Insurance Reform. Specifically, ask each of your U.S. Senators to pass legislation in the U.S. Senate that is similar to what the House of Representatives passed in H.R. 3121, which reauthorized the National Flood Insurance Program and included flood insurance customers an option to have one policy for both wind and water.The site provides a phone script to use and a link to obtain the phone numbers of our two U.S. Senators. Taylor also provides a link through which to share the phone script page with friends and family throughout the nation. Good stuff.
Taylor's campaign website also hosts a fantastic compilation of news articles, editorials, and videos on how insurance reform is critical to Katrina families' ability to rebuild their homes and communities and how the homeowner insurance crisis continues to spread throughout the nation's coastal states. Click here for his Insurance Reform page.
From sea to shining sea, Big Insurance is dropping coverage, dropping customers, and skyrocketing premiums. Reading through all the articles on Taylor's campaign website makes us realize that the homeowner crisis is beyond just that of the current mortgage crisis. We can begin to solve the homeowner insurance crisis through letting our fingers do the walking and our mouths do the talking to our Senators. We did not create this crisis. Solving it, though, rests in our hands.
Return to A.M. in the Morning! Home