California is continuing its efforts to reduce the cost of forced-place insurance, pressuring QBE Insurance Corporation to reduce its rates by 35 percent effective March 15.
At the same time, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said a second insurer, Great American Assurance Company, has also reduced its forced-place insurance premiums by 28 percent in its Mortgage Protection Insurance Program.
The QBE rate reduction will result in an estimated $19.4 million savings policyholders, with an average savings of $626 per policyholder annually, Jones said.
The Great American reduction will save California policyholders $1.26 million annually, Jones says.
The two actions are part of a trend by federal and state regulators to force reductions in homeowners-insurance rates paid by consumers after their standard coverage lapses.
These actions include new regulations on forced-place insurance imposed last week by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a recent push by the Federal National Mortgage Association, the federally controlled and troubled mortgage lender.
Investigative hearings have been held in New York and Florida on the issue, and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has also held hearings in addition to seeking a nationwide re-examination of insurance-department policies.
Fannie Mae is pushing to persuade new entrants into the market, including foreign-based insurers, as part of an effort to reduce the cost of homeowners insurance on troubled properties it insurers.
The recent Calif. department announcements followed an announcement Oct. 24 by Jones that Assurant had agreed to a 30.5 percent reduction in rates charged for force-placed insurance.
John Nadel, an analyst at Stern Agee & Leach in New York said that Assurant’s rate reduction of 30.5 percent compared with QBE’s rate reduction of 35 percent is “reflective of the fact that Assurant’s rates were already modestly below that of QBE.”
Nadel says he doubts that the difference is a “signal that California will push Assurant to drop rates further, though I could be wrong.”
He adds, “Assurant has rather consistently indicated that it believes its rates are, almost nationwide, below that of QBE. The action by California would, in my view, back that up.”
Nadel had slashed Assurant’s future earnings projections by one-third as a result of the October action by California, as well as those proposed by other states.
However, he sees the push by Fannie as a greater concern to the current players.