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Clear on Coast

By: ELA (Fri, Apr/20/2007)

Last week, members of a Rhode Island legislative commission on natural disasters heard Sandra Parrillo of Providence Mutual and Kevin Meskell of Quincy Mutual provide the most lucid explanation of the coastal homeowners insurance problem on record in New England. The executives minimized use of the phrase multidecadal oscillation and offered a step-by-step overview of the process by which they determined how to slough off a measured number of policies to protect their companies and policyholders. They captured the dilemma that smaller companies with many risks concentrated in vulnerable areas face.

Unfortunately, the Rhode Island lawmakers, at least a few, seemed unhappy to hear any response that wasn’t, “Ooo, you’re right. We HAVE been charging Ocean Staters too much and we didn’t realize no major hurricanes have hit the state for years, but we’ll stop now. Thanks for the heads-up.”

To give the commission members credit, they allowed the insurer executives to offer that full and articulate explanation. They listened attentively. However, once the prepared testimony was completed, some lawmakers asked keen questions, while others blustered incoherently for minutes on end, which serves no useful purpose.

Truth be told, these lawmakers are getting great big earfuls about this issue from their constituents. However, they  have continually failed to grasp the real situation, as evidenced by Rep. Amy G. Rice (D-Portsmouth), who informed the lawmakers that Rhody residents are receiving letters with unthinkable consequences. “You’re increasing their premiums 40, 50, 60, 70 percent AND you’re dropping them,” Rice declared.

I could totally be on board with bashing any company in any industry that didn’t want to sell me their product anymore, but still wanted me to pay twice the price for it. But that isn’t happening here, so I can only assume Rice misspoke or her comments were the result of an indignation-curdled mind.

I like to think that when the cameras aren’t rolling, the legislators will take a serious look at what Meskell and Parrillo had to say. If they examine all the evidence and in particular absorb the fact that homeowners can still find insurance in the voluntary market, they will finally understand. And, while they are generally asking reasonable questions, they must stop treating the responses as suspect simply because they come from an insurance company.
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