By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) announced in a written statement that he was enacting the recommendations of the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission.
Bentley signed an executive order to formally establish the Alabama Center for Insurance Information & Research. The Center will be housed at the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce and will have a goal of providing valuable information to property owners throughout the state.
Gov. Bentley said, “This will be an independent, non-profit research center that will examine the challenges facing Alabama homeowners and produce thorough, unbiased research on the availability and affordability of homeowners insurance across Alabama. This will be a source of information that helps homeowners make informed decisions. This will help encourage competition, which will also benefit consumers. And I believe that, over time, the work of this center can make insurance premiums more affordable while connecting more people with the comprehensive types of coverage they need.”
Following Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the reserves of many coastal insurers, insurance companies raised the rates on homeowners in coastal counties. Climate scientists were telling insurers then that hurricanes would become stronger and more frequent which also led insurers to limit their exposure to future catastrophic losses by backing out of coastal counties. Many large insurers stopped writing policies in Mobile and Baldwin County altogether.
Addressing the availability and affordability of homeowners insurance is a long-term priority of Governor Bentley. In April 2011, the Governor established the Coastal Insurance Commission to address the insurance needs of people living along the Alabama Gulf Coast. After the April 27, 2011, tornadoes the commission’s mission was expanded and the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission was established to take a statewide approach to addressing insurance needs. More Alabamians have been killed by tornadoes since World War II than residents of any other state.
The Alabama Center for Insurance Information & Research was a key recommendation of the commission. Bentley hopes that the research center will: becoming a statewide and credible source of information on risk management, help Alabama insurance buyers understand risk mitigation and consequential savings, identify barriers that discourage new insurers from coming to Alabama, and provide valuable new insights to policy makers, consumers, and insurance and risk management professionals.
The Chairman of the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission, Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell said, “As a life-long resident of Coastal Alabama, I feel the opportunities for broader coverage and more affordable coverage will be enhanced greatly by establishing this center. The open dialogue that will result from this center will help provide a better insurance market for all of our citizens. This is something we’ve needed for a long time.”
Alabama Department of Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling said, “The commission conducted a rigorous investigation to find solutions to the problems faced by a significant number of people. Research and education continually surfaced as necessary components to any solution. Consumer education and information from this center can help people make informed decisions and get more for their insurance dollar. By establishing this research center, the Governor is fulfilling a promise to the people of our state.”
Alabama Department of Revenue Julie Magee and a member of the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission said, “We need a long-term solution to having an affordable and quality product that all homeowners can obtain. This research center is a tremendous step in reaching our goal of more affordable and accessible homeowners insurance for people throughout Alabama.”
Dr. Michael Hardin, Dean of the Culverhouse College of Commerce at UA, said, “We are honored and pleased that the University of Alabama was chosen as the location for the Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research. The mission of the University of Alabama is learning, research, and service. This center fits into all three goals. It will bring together the best minds to solve important problems, and the information provided by this center can benefit people throughout Alabama – and beyond.”