Politics just beginning in insurance rate dilemma

Published 5:00 am Monday, May 8, 2006

As statewide political columnist Sid Salter pointed out lastweek, a very real insurance dilemma is facing Mississippi thatcould affect every homeowner across the state, and one withpolitical consequences that could pit coastal counties against therest of the state.

The problem is a recently requested 397.8 percent rate increasefor homeowners insurance along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Part ofthe “wind-pool fund,” the rate increase is for the high-risk areasin the coastal areas of the state.

The rate increase has been requested by the insurance industryto cover losses sustained following Katrina and to build reservesfor possible future hurricane losses.

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The issue, however, will become who pays for that increase -homeowners along the six counties that make up the Mississippi GulfCoast or homeowners in all 82 counties! The Mississippi InsuranceCommission has the job of making that decision with the Legislaturelooking over the commission’s shoulder.

There is a train of thought that those who choose to live inrisky areas vulnerable to hurricanes should be willing to bear theeconomic burden. Such a scenario would radically change the face ofthe coast as only the affluent would be able to affordinsurance.

A second train of thought says it would be better to share thatburden with all homeowners across the state to soften the blow toalready battered homeowners and to allow for a more socialeconomically diverse coastal area.

A third train of thought is to allow the beachfront area to turncompletely commercial and move residential areas fartherinland.

We don’t pretend to know the answer, but we do know the nextlevel of political posturing and finger-pointing is just beginningas an election year looms.