Hunter To File Legislation To Make Department of Insurance More Transparent

| July 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Agency Would Have To Post Why They Are Increasing Insurance Rates And How Much They Are

Texas State Representative Todd Hunter, one of the state’s foremost experts on insurance and particularly on windstorm insurance, has had enough of what some see as arrogant behavior at the Texas Department of Insurance – and now the chair of the powerful House of Representatives Calendar Committee wants to do something about it.

 The so called “straw that broke the camel’s back” was a decision by the Insurance agency to allow new surcharges to property and car insurance policies after a catastrophic storm. That’s a policy that would dramatically affect Texans who live along the coast where hurricanes are likely to hit and where Hunter lives and works.

“There has been a lot of frustration on the coastline that the Texas Department of Insurance doesn’t really care,” Hunter told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.  “We feel that there is a lot of taxation and no representation.”

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Hunter says the bill will be for all of Texas — not just the Texas coastline — and that it will be filed for the 2015 legislative session.

So just what will the new legislation do if it passes:

– It would require that the Texas Department of Insurance reveal who meets with Texas Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber to discuss certain insurance issues and post it on the TDI website.

– And, it would require that public notices be given when there are going to be hikes in insurance that include a justification, explanation and cost estimate of that insurance rate hike.

Hunter was especially unhappy when the Insurance Agency agreed to pass the surcharges on to Texas consumers but couldn’t say how high those premium surcharges would be or what they would cost Texas citizens.

– The proposal by Hunter would also require that the Insurance Department disclose information about staff hirings, show where the certain rate changes might occur and face “sunset” every four years rather than every 10 to 12 years.

In Texas, state agencies face periodic sunset hearings to determine if they are still needed, are doing their jobs and get legislative initiatives on making necessary changes.

“If they can shoot at the coastal residents,” Hunter said. “Then it justifies that we shine the light on them.”

For months, coastal legislators and civic leaders have concerned about TDI’s ability to bring the surcharges, part of a two-year-old law regarding the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). Legislators said they wanted to solve problems with the windstorm association with legislation and to get $400 million in assessment from insurance companies from damage by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Following Ike’s devastation, TWIA had the option to assess $830 million to insurance companies but only assessed about $430 million instead. Under current legislation, TWIA first pays for claims out of its premiums, then it can issue bonds to pay the remainder of the damages but those bonds have to be paid back by increasing premiums and adding surcharges on insurance policies for those living in coastal areas and by assessments charged to insurance providers.

Meanwhile Hunter is drumming up support for the new proposal by going to counties in the 14-county first tier region for windstorm insurance.



Category: State Rep. Todd Hunter, Texas Windstorm, Texas Windstorm Insurance Association


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