It’s about the closest thing to DIY earthquake insurance as one can get, though there’s definitely no indication that the newest consumer-friendly features being rolled out by the California Earthquake Authority will enable people to do without their agents.
CEA in January is offering several new options for consumers who wish to buy earthquake insurance. Those include a new premium calculator, more deductible options, a rate reduction as well as an advertising blitz that’s hitting television, radio and the internet.
The goal is to get more California homeowners to buy earthquake insurance, said CEA CEO Glenn Pomeroy.
“When we hear the voice of the consumer, we hear from people who may not have looked at earthquake insurance in a while and think it costs too much and the deductible is too high,” Pomeroy said. “Their earthquake insurance impression is frozen in their minds.”
He added, “We have all sorts of new options now coming their way.”
Roughly one-in-10 California homeowners have earthquake insurance, and the CEA has been launching new initiatives each year to try and beef up those numbers.
Indications are that it may be working. According to the CEA, the policy count is now the highest it’s been since 1999. There are now more than 876,000 CEA earthquake policies in force, a figure that’s been rising steadily since 2003.
“We’ve been slowly moving forward,” Pomeroy said. “Many of these things we’ve been working on in the last few years have been starting to take hold.”
New deductibles, lower rates, retrofitting incentives and more coverage options are among the new features CEA customers will be seeing this year.
One of the biggest moves CEA is making is spreading out deductible options from 5 percent to 25 percent, which Pomeroy views as a major improvement over the original “barebones policy” that offered only a 15 percent deductible.
“Beginning in January consumers can chose a deductible as low as 5 or as high as 25 percent,” Pomeroy said. “They now have options for 5 percent, 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent or 25 percent. This is a real game changer.”
Also starting in January an average 10 percent rate reduction kicks in – some will see higher or lower reductions depending on several factors, including proximity to fault lines.
The CEA is also stepping up efforts to incentivize people to retrofit their homes.
CEA historically offered a mitigation discount of 5 percent off of consumer premiums when a retrofit is completed. The authority is now expanding that to include 10 or 20 percent depending various factors, Pomeroy said.
The authority is also offering a number of expanded coverages.
Pomeroy believes the change coming in the new year that may prove to be the most enticing to consumers is a new premium calculator on the authority’s website.
Homeowners can input some basic information like the age of their home, whether it’s a wood frame building, the value, number of stories, and land on a page where a deductible can be chosen, along with options to upgrade coverage. Visitors then have option buttons to compare rates or find an agent.
“We put them in the driver’s seat so they can design the kind of policy that supports their needs and budget,” Pomeroy said.