SB 64 Poses Threat to Calif. Homeowners Market, Says AIA

July 10, 2003

A proposed bill severely restricting insurers’ ability to manage exposure and calculate risk would give homeowners insurers no option but to limit writing new coverage in California, the American Insurance Association (AIA) said. Senate Bill 64, authored by Sen. Jackie Speier (D), requires insurers to seek prior approval of underwriting criteria from the Department of Insurance. SB 64 also limits an insurers’ ability to non-renew policies and prohibits the use of information obtained from consumer reporting agencies.

“SB 64 essentially creates a state-run insurance program because all aspects of underwriting and pricing would be controlled by state regulation,” said Bill Gausewitz, AIA assistant vice president, western region. “California’s homeowners insurance market is undergoing a natural adjustment period. While mounting mold claims and litigation expenses are driving up the cost of insurance, California is not facing a homeowners insurance crisis. The market has tightened, but many companies are actually increasing their market share. Legislation like SB 64 is an overreaction to a tight market and is likely to backfire and disrupt the availability of coverage.”

“SB 64 damages the ability of insurance companies to evaluate, underwrite and appropriately price potential insurance risks,” said Gausewitz. “Under SB 64 insurers would have little ability to control the risks they cover. Insurers must have adequate underwriting tools to manage their exposure and balance their books of business. Without the tools necessary to measure risks, insurers’ credit ratings and solvency could be jeopardized. Policymakers should proceed carefully and not eliminate the ability of insurers’ to operate in the state or California will become a nearly impossible place to offer homeowners insurance.”

Editor’s Note: SB 64 was scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Insurance Committee July 9. Insurance Journal will update its status as soon as it is known.

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