The Massachusetts Senate recently passed a legislative amendment that would open up home insurers’ rate filings for public discussion.
The amendment was proposed by Massachusetts State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington. The lawmaker said the measure would benefit homeowners who are currently kept in the dark until after the state Division of Insurance approves rate hikes requested by insurance companies.
His measure would declare industry requests for home insurance rate increases to be “public records” as soon as they are filed and before they become effective.
To give consumers a look at rate hikes in a convenient way, the amendment also requires all industry filings to be posted online within three business days.
The amendment was attached to the Senate’s public records reform bill, S.B. 2127, which passed the Senate on Feb. 4. The bill seeks to establish faster timetables for state agencies to comply with public records requests and set limits on fees charged for requesting public records.
S.B. 2127 is headed to a legislative conference committee, where differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill can be reconciled.
“A little transparency goes a long way,” Barrett said. “The state attorney general, interested legislators and concerned members of the public will get a timely look at new insurance rates. If any warrant additional study, we will now have a chance to do our due diligence.”
Last year, three of the state’s largest insurers raised premiums on Massachusetts homeowners after a harsh winter led to increased claims activity. Mapfre USA Corp., the state’s largest home insurer, increased rates by 8.9 percent on average; Safety Insurance, by 9.1 percent; and Bunker Hill Insurance, by 7.7 percent. Barrett said a slew of smaller insurers followed suit.
Barrett said all the rate hikes were approved by the Division of Insurance without input from the public, legislators or consumer advocates. Average yearly increases in Massachusetts homeowner’s insurance rates have typically been around 2-3 percent.