The state says the fire risk map did not affect insurance [Baker City Herald, Ore.] – InsuranceNewsNet

Aug. 15 — Oregon insurance companies have not used and do not plan to use a controversial state wildfire risk map when setting coverage costs or premiums, according to a state agency study released on Friday, Aug. 12.

The study’s results contradict one of the complaints it raised Oregon Department of Forestry to withdraw the map published to the public June 30.

Property owners and state lawmakers cited cases where residents whose property was considered a high or extreme fire risk on the map had problems with their insurance, including policies that were not renewed.

But on Oregon Department of Financial Regulation on Friday said in a press release that “insurance companies in Oregon have not used and currently have no plans to use the state’s wildfire risk map in decision-making.”

The risk map is part of Senate Bill 762, a 2021 bill that the Legislature passed and Oregon manager Kate Brown signed into law.

The bill addresses numerous issues related to wildfires in the state, including wildfire prevention and protecting rural properties from fire. The bill requires the state to draw a map, through June 30, 2022showing the risk of forest fire for each of of Oregon 1.8 million tax lots.

Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon State University collaborated on the map, which, in addition to the level of risk, showed which properties were within what is known as the wildland-urban interface — the WUI, the area in and near forests and grasslands where wildfires are more likely to occur. -probable.

Homeowners who are both within a WUI and rated as high or extreme risk may be required, under Senate Bill 762, to take steps, such as tree trimming, to protect their properties. These residents may also be required to comply with stricter building codes.

But concerns about how the fire risk map could affect residents’ insurance have prompted many complaints, including from Baker County two state legislators, Sen. Lynn FindleyR-Valeand representative Mark OwensR-Crane.

State forester Kal Mukumoto announced on 3 Aug that the card has been downloaded and will be redone.

Mukumoto said the state has not been aggressive enough in notifying the public about the map and soliciting public comment on it.

As for claims that the card influences insurance companies, state officials say they are unfounded.

According to Department of Financial Regulationbefore the state releases the card June 30insurance company officials told the state, in what the press described as “informal discussions,” that they did not intend to use the upcoming card.

On August 2after listening to residents’ concerns that the risk map affects insurance coverage, the state issued a formal inquiry to insurance companies, which they are required by state law to answer truthfully, according to the press release.

The state investigation looked at nearly 150 insurance companies that offer coverage to homeowners in the Oregon to answer these questions:

— Does the company use the state wildfire map for rating or underwriting?

(Rating determines premium costs, and underwriting is the process of evaluating the risk of a policy offering.)

— Does the company use the state map of forest fires for other purposes?

— Does the company plan to use the state forest fire map for any purposes in the future?

According to the press release, all companies said they do not use the rating or signature card, nor do they intend to.

The press release also noted that the state has not received any applications for insurance rate changes that include the wildfire risk map as a factor.

“This confirms what we knew: insurance companies are not using the state’s wildfire risk map,” said Oregon’s insurance commissioner Andrew Stolfi said the press release. “Insurance companies have been using their own risk maps and other robust risk management tools to assess wildfire risk for years in making rating and underwriting decisions. We believe there is confusion between decisions based on insurers’ continued use of proprietary tools, including their own risk maps, and discussions about the new state wildfire risk map. We encourage underwriters and agents to be careful in how they describe underwriting and rating decisions.”

Consumers who have questions or complaints about insurance can contact Department of Financial Regulations consumer protection hotline at 888-877-4894 (toll free) or file a complaint online at dfr.oregon.gov.

On Thursday, August 11on Department of Financial Regulation issued a newsletter signed by Stolfi to all insurance companies selling homeowner policies citing concerns about companies using the wildfire risk map.

The bulletin said that although the companies denied using the map, “it may be a violation of the Insurance Code to falsely attribute rate increases or decisions to cancel coverage on the state wildfire risk map.”

“It is extremely important that consumers receive accurate information about the decisions made regarding their policies,” the newsletter said.

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(c) 2022 Baker City Herald (Baker City, OR)

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