Home Insurance Rates Soar

Lewis CBS

Stanley and Nina Lewis love their Texas home, but hate what they have to pay to insure it.

They told CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson that their homeowners insurance jumped $800 in one fell swoop--a startling 63 percent, even though they'd never made a claim.

"It doesn't seem right," said Nina Lewis.

"My God…that was a whole lot to swallow," exclaimed Stanley Lewis.

Out in California, different insurance company--same story.

"I even took out a pen and wrote, 'Wow'! They were increasing my rates significantly and at the same time reducing my coverage," said homeowner Chris Witteman.

Across the country, homeowners insurance is going through the roof. The insurance industry blames bad weather, mold, even 9-eleven. Not to mention their Wall Street disasters.

A study by the Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights found that the top ten insurers lost $274 million investing in stocks like Enron, Worldcom, and Global Crossing.

"Well, the fact is that losses are increasing," explained P. J. Crowley, of the Insurance Information Institute. "Costs are not going down, costs for insurance companies are going up."

Yet while insurers cry poverty to customers, they're painting a rosier picture to their own investors.

State Farm helped make up for its stock market losses with customers like Witteman.

State Farm recently raked in nearly $50 billion in revenue...$3 billion better than the year before.

Over at Traveler's, net income tripled to $340 million, primarily "due to the benefit of rate increases exceeding [losses]," explained the company.

And Allstate may have lost millions on Tyco, Qwest, Enron and Worldcom stock. Yet with a little help from customers like the Lewis' they can now brag about "net income of $665 million...a 40-percent increase!"

There was "generally mild weather", "catastrophe losses...significantly below the historical average,"..."We will continue to focus on taking rate increases."

The industry insists everyone benefits when the insurers are in good financial shape because it means they won't fold up shop when there's a disaster.

"If you're in business, you've got to make money!" says P.J. Crowley. "Every corporation does this. They look at their different operations and those that are profitable they enhance...those that are unprofitable they either stem those losses or get out of that business. Insurers are no different!"

Customers have little leverage--the law requires people with mortgages to carry a homeowners policy. So they begrudgingly pay the price...knowing there's one thing worse than a big rate increase--a cancellation notice.
  • Justine Blau

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