Submitted by State Senator Michael Barrett
An amendment just passed by the State Senate would open up — for the first time — local homeowner’s insurance rates to public discussion. State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, says it’s a major win for homeowners, who are currently kept in the dark until after the state Division of Insurance approves rate hikes requested by insurance companies.
Barrett’s measure would declare industry requests for home insurance rate increases to be “public records” as soon as they are filed and before they become effective.
To give consumers a look at rate increases in a convenient way, his amendment also requires all industry filings to be posted online within three business days.
Barrett’s amendment was added to the Senate’s version of public records reform, now headed to a legislative conference committee, where differences between the House and Senate versions can be reconciled.
“A little transparency goes a long way,” Barrett said. “The state Attorney General, interested legislators and concerned members of the public will get a timely look at new insurance rates. If any warrant additional study, we will now have a chance to do our due diligence.”
Last year, three of the state’s largest insurers raised premiums on Massachusetts homeowners. Mapfre USA Corp. (formerly Commerce Insurance), the state’s largest home insurer, increased rates by 8.9%; Safety Insurance, by 9.1%; and Bunker Hill Insurance, by 7.7%. A slew of smaller companies followed suit.
All the rate hikes were approved by the Division of Insurance without input from the public, legislators or consumer advocates. Average yearly increases in homeowner’s insurance rates have typically been around 2% – 3%.
In September, Barrett, Chair of the Senate’s Post Audit and Oversight Committee, held a public hearing on the rate hikes which included testimony from the DOI, insurance company executives, the Attorney General’s office and consumer advocates.