The high cost of homeowners insurance in Texas has become a topic of debate between Democratic challenger Bill White, a former mayor of Houston, and incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry.
According to the White campaign, the average homeowner in Texas pays approximately $626 more for household coverage than his counterparts in other states. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners places the average rate for Texas homes at $1,448 — second only to Florida.
White has come out in support of a regulatory plan that would require prior approval of homeowners premiums. Legislation was passed in Texas in 2003 that lets insurers in the state file and use rates in the homeowners market, but no prior approval is required. Insurance regulators can, after the fact, deny a rate filing that they find to be excessive, but that practice, according to White, has not been sufficient to protect Texans.
In his campaign materials White said, “Homeowner’s insurance rates are squeezing the savings of Texas families. As governor, I’d require homeowners insurance companies to prove why any rate increase is needed before I’d permit it. Under Perry, if they want your money they can have it. I’d put a stop to that. This is a common sense approach that’s worked in states all over the country. Perry said he’d fix homeowner’s insurance costs in 2002. It’s been eight years, and he hasn’t.”
Most Texans, saddled with high bills, would agree, but, not surprisingly, the insurance industry does not support White’s position, saying a return to rate regulation would squelch competition and give insurers no incentive to offer the best price. With rates second only to Florida, a state notorious for its insurance laws and scandals, Texas insurers seem to be doing just fine with setting the best homeowners price — the best price for their profit margin.
According to White’s figures, homeowners insurance in the Lone Star state is up 50% since Perry took office. While Perry is favored overall in the gubernatorial race, this problem won’t go away when the race is over and Texans are sill in a crunch, looking for better homeowners premiums — especially in these tough economic times.