Letters to the Editor: Finally, a plan from Sacramento on helping fire-weary Californians
To the editor: I appreciate the support of my predecessor from across the aisle for my ongoing actions as insurance commissioner to protect Californians from wildfires. This is a bipartisan issue that requires bipartisan solutions. (“Wildfires never threatened my home. But my insurer said they do — and dumped me,” Opinion, April 12)
The abrupt cancellation of Steve Poizner’s home insurance echoes the heart-wrenching stories thousands of Californians expressed to me in town halls throughout the state and the investigatory hearing about wildfires I held in 2020, the first by any insurance commissioner. These stories drove my urgency to work collaboratively with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration emergency services agencies and other wildfire experts to craft solutions.
Earlier this year I proposed regulations, which could be in effect by this summer, providing consumers with transparency about their “wildfire risk score” that insurance companies assign to properties. The new regulations also require insurance companies to factor consumers’ and businesses’ wildfire safety actions into their pricing of residential and commercial coverage.
Californians are rolling up their sleeves to make themselves safer from wildfires. When you do the work, you should see the reward. If you cannot find insurance, California’s FAIR Plan must offer homeowners a comprehensive option — and I am the first insurance commissioner to order it to do just that.
Our state has always had wildfires. Now we are taking greater action than ever before in our history to protect people and property.
Ricardo Lara, Los Angeles
The writer is insurance commissioner of California.
To the editor: If former Insurance Commissioner Poizner has his way, the sticker shock that California homeowners get when trying to obtain property insurance would pale in comparison to what’s ahead.
As an insurance broker, I know firsthand how challenging it can be for homeowners to get the protection they need to guard against worsening wildfire seasons. While the California FAIR Plan, as the state’s private insurer of last resort, is a seemingly convenient scapegoat for politicians, it is not the answer.
FAIR Plan rates are required by law to be high enough to meet the cost of paying claims in the event of a loss. The insurance commissioner must approve rates that reflect the real risk to properties, even in areas of highest fire risk. To complement the FAIR Plan’s fire insurance, difference-in-conditions policies are widely available to help homeowners get comprehensive property coverage.
Forcing the FAIR Plan to transform from a safety net insurer that provides basic protection into a sprawling full-coverage insurer that competes with the voluntary marketplace is unnecessary, and it would make FAIR Plan policies much more costly and out of reach for many Californians.
Dawn Foster, Magalia, Calif