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Senate panel looking into home insurance rate hikes

From  the Lynn Daily Item:

By Matt Murphy STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

BOSTON – A Senate panel plans to investigate increases in homeowner insurance rates approved this year after a harsh winter led to increased claims from property owners.

Sen. Michael Barrett, a Lexington Democrat and chair of the Senate’s Post Audit and Oversight Committee, said Monday he would hold an oversight hearing in September to question the Division of Insurance about its approval of the new rates.

Some of the state’s largest property insurers this summer received approval for rate increases hovering around 9 percent.  Mapfre USA Corp., the state’s largest home insurer, plans to increase rates by 8.9 percent, while Safety Insurance’s rates will climb by 9.1 percent and Bunker Hill Insurance will raise rates by 7.8 percent.

The increases will add about $100 a year to policies in Massachusetts that average $1,150 to $1,250 annually.

According (to) the senator’s office and the insurance division, there are about 1.86 million home insurance policies in Massachusetts and the typically annual increase ranges between 2 percent and 3 percent.

“Last winter, insurers shelled out real money to pay for damage from ice dams and water leaks – but hikes of eight and nine percent deserve a close look by regulators and legislators,” Barrett said in a statement.  “The industry is supposed to set aside reserves in advance for the occasional tough year.  I hope the Division of Insurance went to town with its due diligence before approving these big increases.  Let’s see if they did.”

Consumer advocates and insurance executives will be invited to testify as well.  The hearing date has not yet been set.

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