HICKS COLUMN: Insurance doesnt need study, it needs regulation
So the General Assembly wants to hold hearings to determine whether its recent deregulation of the insurance industry is bad for South Carolina homeowners.
Skip the dog-and-pony show, guys, the answer is: Duh.
On Sunday, Tony Bartelme reported that in the past decade the average South Carolina homeowner’s insurance has gone up 73 percent.
Which is insane.
Now state Sen. Tom Davis wants to find out if a law that allows home insurance companies to raise their rates up to 7 percent annually without state approval is costing us more. Here’s a good clue. Since that law passed five years ago, many insurance companies have taken to raising their rates by — surprise — 6.9 percent a year.
It would be funny if it didn’t hurt our wallets so much. This is blatantly gaming the system, and it’s costing everyone money — all in the name of “conservative” politics.
Regs bad for who?
Republicans have drilled it in everyone’s heads that regulations are evil.
They say these rules put an onerous burden on businesses, and ultimately cost us money. Really? Are all regulations bad? Should factories spew toxic chemicals into the air unchecked, or meat-packing plants be allowed to avoid pesky USDA guidelines? Forget about this “good for business” nonsense. Businesses pay insurance too, and this is hurting them. Fact is, this is only good for one business.
The way it used to work with the insurance companies was fairly straight-forward. A company would submit a request to raise rates, and the state would determine if it was warranted. Often, insurance companies kept their rates too low in the name of competition. That’s great until Son of Hugo hits and the company declares bankruptcy before paying a single claim.
State regulators often considered a company’s solvency as much as the bite for consumers when considering rate adjustments. It wasn’t about keeping prices low — it was about keeping them sane.
Without those checks and balances, which the Legislature erased years ago, it’s like a license to print money for the insurance industry.
No study needed
Andy Twisdale believes South Carolina’s insurance rates are hurting the state’s economy.
The Hilton Head real estate agent, who works on this issue for the S.C. Realtors Association, says he believes having higher insurance rates than those in neighboring states hurts economic development. And it sure isn’t helping home sales. One of Twisdale’s clients recently opted not to move here from the North. He said the savings in property taxes would be offset by his insurance.
Without oversight, the industry is going to get further out of control. One insurance company recently canceled the policies of many Lowcountry homeowners to minimize their risk. Think about that. Aren’t they in the risk business?
Lawmakers need to do something other than study this — they need to give the Insurance Commission a little more power to rein this in.
Because this isn’t going to get better, it’s going to get worse.
By about 6.9 percent a year.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.