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Windstorm Rate Hikes Again At Issue in Corpus Christi

Windstorm insurance is paid for by home and business owners along the coast, unlike insurance for other disasters like fire and flood. Those rates are spread by the insurance industry across all ratepayers, no matter where the destruction is located.

The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association’s notice that it will hold an actuarial committee meeting October 17 “concerning association rate filings” has put Coastal Bend officials on notice — again. They see the move as yet another attempt at a windstorm insurance rate hike after one was avoided in August. They plan to be ready.

“This looks suspicious and looks again like they do everything without public involvement,” said Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi). “To me, raising rates should be open to the ratepayers.”

As a call to action, a coalition of Coastal Bend chambers of commerce plan a media conference at 10 a.m. Monday, October 14, in advance of the TWIA committee meeting, which is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday, October 17. The local media conference, to be held at the Solomon P. Ortiz Conference Center, 402 Harbor Drive, will be hosted by the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce.

“We think they are trying to push (a rate increase) forward,” said chamber CEO John LaRue. “We’re not going to take it lying down.”

At the TWIA board meeting in August, directors voted 5-4 to submit a zero percent rate increase to the Texas Department of Insurance. The board is required by law to submit a rate request each year.

The decision came after a powerful public protest against a rate adequacy analysis was presented suggesting that current rates were 42-50 percent inadequate.

The board heard three hours of public comments at the August meeting before voting to submit a zero rate increase. The motion included a stipulation that the board review rates “at a later date” to give members time to study the actuarial tables and new laws passed during the 86th legislative session earlier this year. They then took a 10-minute break, which sent most protestors home feeling pretty good about the outcome.

When the meeting came back to order, a second motion was approved instructing the TWIA executive committee to appoint new members to a defunct TWIA Actuarial/Underwriting Committee to study legislation and rates. The motion called for the committee to come back to the full board with recommendations. The agenda should also include reevaluation of Hurricane Harvey losses.

At the time, the board discussed appointing nine members to the committee reflecting the same makeup as the board: three, three, and three from the TWIA board, the insurance industry, and the public. The committee ended up with seven members: three, two, and two from the board, the insurance industry, and the public, respectively.

The committee is chaired by TWIA board member Debbie King. The two members representing the public are Stephen Alexander of Alexander Actuarial Consulting and Marilyn Hamilton, who is retired from the Texas Department of Insurance.

Hunter sees Alexander as a beacon of hope on the committee.

“(Alexander) commented at the public meeting that the information they were using was just wrong,” Hunter said. “And there has been no change in that information since the August meeting.”

Another reason Hunter is unhappy with this meeting is that it is a "telephonic" meeting and includes only 15 minutes for public comment and 35 minutes for discussion.

“This is ridiculous,” Hunter said. “My view is that they had a huge amount of protest emailed to them in August, a huge amount of protestors attended in August, so they turn around and hold a telephonic meeting and limit the public comment. The public should be absolutely involved and engaged. To see raising rates should be open to the ratepayers.”

Hunter called the move to continually raise windstorm rates for residents of the Gulf Coast “anti-coast.” He and other Gulf Coast elected officials would like to see windstorm insurance treated the same way other disasters are treated: Rates are spread out among ratepayers statewide for fires and floods. Windstorm should be treated equally.

“There was recently a rate increase for weather events across Texas that everyone has to pay,” he said. “The coast is being slammed both ways. They shouldn’t even be having this discussion.”

The actuarial committee meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, October 17, in the TWIA offices in Austin, 5700 S. MoPac Expressway, Building A.

The media conference protesting rate increases will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, October 14, at the Solomon P. Ortiz Conference Center, 402 Harbor Drive in Corpus Christi.

The TWIA board has a regular board meeting set for December 10 at the Omni Hotel, 900 N. Shoreline Blvd. in Corpus Christi. No time or agenda has been determined yet.

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