Alabama Insurance Commissioner Walter A. Bell has been named to chair a 20-member “Insurance Hurricane Issues Task Force” formed by Gov. Bob Riley to study hurricane insurance issues in coastal Alabama. Members of the panel include business leaders, insurers and legislators.
“I want a proactive approach that leads to a more stable market where insurance is going to be available and affordable to Alabamians on the Gulf Coast,” Riley said. “I’m expecting this task force to produce concrete proposals that get results.”
Riley announced picks for his task force and said it will meet this week to recommend strategies to his office and the Alabama Legislature. Members of the task force include, among others, state senators Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, and Gary Tanner, D-Theodore; and representatives Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores, and Spencer Collier, R-Irvington.
Bell said the group will begin work with no preconceived notions. “We will be looking at a variety of ideas,” he said. “By coming together, we can work through the issues that affect citizens and companies. It is a large task, but it is an important one.”
The panel was formed in reaction to an announcement last week by Alfa Insurance indicating it would no longer write policies in several Alabama counties. Commenting on the plight of those policyholders, Ragan Ingram, assistant Insurance Commissioner said: “They won’t have wind coverage; they’ll have to go somewhere else to get wind coverage … or go to another company altogether that would cover the entire package.
“We are trying to get to a point where people are not put in a financial bind, and we can get the most affordable insurance to them, and where the companies will remain financially viable.”
“The Commissioner and members of the state legislature representing these constituents are serious about finding ways to keep these Alabamians insured,” commented Harland “Jay” Ison Jr. a member of the panel and president-elect of the Alabama Independent Insurance Agents. “The current alternative to directly insuring these homes and businesses through insurance companies doing business in Baldwin and Mobile Counties is through the Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association.”
Ison said policyholders must piece their coverage together, at higher rates and may not be able to cover the full value of their home or business.
“We would like to see AIUA revise their total acceptable limit to a level that can accommodate larger homes and businesses, revise their policy forms to offer a homeowners policy in lieu of a fire policy, combine the wind coverage with the property coverage, and include liability coverage, at an affordable rate,” Ison explained. “If consumers cannot insure their homes and businesses for coastal exposures, it will stifle economic growth in the area, and worse, it will drive others away to other areas of the state where they can find affordable insurance.”
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