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High insurance rates

If the Legislature needed more motivation to finally act on excessively high homeowners insurance rates, it came recently.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners reported that the Lone Star State has the highest average annual cost for this vital consumer protection.

The average for the most commonly sold policy in Texas in 2010 was a whopping $1,560, well above the national average of $909 and 3.2 percent higher than the state’s average in the previous year.

Texans are not naive, and they do not want a free ride. They understand that high payouts by insurance companies must be made up in subsequent premiums.

But Texas hasn’t had a major hurricane since Ike in 2008, and losses from tornadoes and hailstorms are almost always localized instead of spread across a larger region.

On top of that is the fact that most major insurance companies also offer life, auto and health coverage on a nationwide basis. Even if they have losses in one area, they make it up in the others.

And most insurance companies are racking up profits.

The Legislature must take action in the coming session to bring some long-overdue relief to homeowners. One simple reform would be to require a standard policy so that homeowners can do comparison shopping with other companies.

The Texas Department of Insurance also should demand proof of need for rate increases instead of passively rubber-stamping them.

Continued inaction would undermine efforts to keep Texas attractive to new residents and businesses — particularly the coastal areas that are so vital to the state.

Beaumont Enterprise

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