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California home insurance crisis is about to become worse as Democratic leaders fail to fix things

California and Florida have been experiencing a home insurance meltdown in recent years, mostly due to climate change. While Florida leadership is addressing the issue by taking proactive measures, California leadership risks making the problem even worse with its slow moves toward solving the insurance crisis. Due to growing risks and profitability concerns, companies are reducing their operations in the Golden State, leaving residents with fewer and more expensive options.

Texas-based American National will cease operations

The California home insurance meltdown came into focus recently when one large insurance company announced that it’s leaving the market, while another confirmed it won’t offer insurance to tens of thousands of residents and businesses. American National, based in Texas, decided to leave the state, citing profitability concerns. The company informed the California Department of Insurance that they’re going to stop selling home insurance by autumn and will let their customers know they won’t renew their policies starting in August.

Illinois-based State Farm General won’t renew thousands of policies

A few weeks later, the Illinois-based State Farm General announced through a press release that it’s not going to renew the insurance for 30,000 houses and about 42,000 business properties in California. This action affects slightly more than 2% of the state’s policies. Given that State Farm General covers one-fifth of all home insurance in California, this move is expected to significantly shake up the market for home insurance, impacting both homebuyers and the industry at large.

Rising prices

Many people in California have had to turn to the FAIR Plan for wildfire insurance because other companies have stopped offering coverage there. Recently, the president of the FAIR Plan announced that they might have to significantly raise their prices soon. The FAIR Plan is designed as a last-resort insurance provider for those who cannot find coverage elsewhere. It is usually more expensive and is meant for temporary protection against major disasters.

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Victoria Roach, the president of the California FAIR Plan, has indicated that a significant insurance rate hike is on the way
California wildfires, screenshot Youtube (PBS NewsHour)

FAIR Plan’s director revealed the news this week

The situation seems to be getting even tougher. Victoria Roach, the president of the FAIR Plan, has indicated that a big rate hike could be on the way.

“Our rates are going to go up, no question about it,” she told the Little Hoover Commission, a state oversight committee, on Thursday. “If we can put net cost of reinsurance in there, if we can use catastrophe modelling just like the voluntary market, our rates are going to go up. In order to bring our rates to the right level, there’s going to be a substantial increase, that’s as much as I can share.”

Victoria Roach, the president of the California FAIR Plan, has indicated that a significant insurance rate hike is on the way
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and VP Kamala Harris, credit: Gov. Newsome X official

The California insurance market has changed significantly

Roach also highlighted that the FAIR Plan now covers a significantly larger number of consumers and properties than before. Since 2019, the number of policies has more than doubled, with the total value of insured properties reaching about $320 billion. As of February this year, the FAIR Plan is among the top five insurers in California, with over 350,000 residential and commercial policies. The rapid growth of the FAIR Plan, with a 22 percent increase in policies in 2023 alone, makes the insurance landscape even more challenging.

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Existing rates are low

By law, the insurer must set rates high enough to cover expected claims, losses, and operating costs to stay financially stable. Victoria Roach pointed out that current rates don’t meet these needs. In 2023, the FAIR Plan increased its rates by 15.7%, but it hasn’t yet proposed another hike to the California Department of Insurance, and Roach didn’t specify how much the next increase might be.

Victoria Roach, the president of the California FAIR Plan, has indicated that a significant insurance rate hike is on the way
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, credit: Gov. Newsome X official

The law is changing

Roach discussed potential changes that could help address these financial shortfalls. One suggestion is allowing the FAIR Plan to adjust rates based on catastrophe risk modeling, like the regular insurance market does, which considers the likelihood of extreme events like wildfires. She also talked about setting rates based on the cost of reinsurance, which is essentially insurance for insurance companies. Currently, California law doesn’t allow the FAIR Plan to do this, but Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is working on legislation, the Sustainable Insurance Strategy, that could change this by year’s end.

Read also: Texas, California, Florida with the highest number of people removed from Medicaid: 5.1 million

What does this mean for California residents

As a result, Californians should brace for higher home insurance costs going forward. Despite more insurance companies withdrawing from the state, the government should aim to make sure that every homeowner and business can access affordable insurance, balancing the needs of consumers with the financial realities of insurance providers.

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