A public hearing to investigate an increase in earthquake insurance rates will be held May 24.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak ordered the hearing — to be 8-10 a.m. — which will include data gathered by the department and comments from insurers and state residents. 

“This is a proactive move to protect consumers,” Doak said. “We’ve seen some rate increase filings up to 100 percent come through the office, and we want to make sure we have a reasonably competitive market. There needs to be a valid financial basis for any rate increase and healthy competition that benefits consumers.”

The hearing will determine if there is a reasonable degree of competition in the market, according to a news release from Doak's office. Recent filings have not substantiated a need for increased rates, according to the release.

Doak also has concerns about competitiveness because 70 percent of earthquake insurance policies in the state are sold by just a few companies, and multi-line discounts make it difficult for a consumer to switch carriers to get a lower price or lower deductible.

During the hearing, Doak will consider the number of insurers writing coverage, market share information, economic barriers preventing new carriers, market concentration, whether long-term profitability for insurers is reasonable and the relationship between insurers' costs and revenue, according to the release.

The hearing will be held at Oklahoma Insurance Department, 3625 N.W. 56th St., Suite 100, Oklahoma City. 

People wishing to speak must notify the department no later than May 17 by emailing General Counsel Gordon Amini at Gordon.Amini@oid.ok.gov

Comments will be limited to issues of competition and pricing in the earthquake insurance market, and will not be a forum to discuss complaints about claim denials or manmade causes of earthquakes.

Public comment will be accepted for a limited amount of time. If some people do not get a chance to speak, they will be asked to provide written testimony, according to the release.

Oklahoma Insurance Department is working to collect earthquake claim data from 2010 to today, and it will be used to analyze payments and ensure fair claims handling is taking place.

“I am responsible for making sure consumers are protected and that insurers are financially solvent,” Doak said. “Gathering this data helps me accomplish both goals.”

Other recent earthquake response efforts in the state include Gov. Mary Fallin signing a bill into law Monday that entails ordering wastewater disposal wells, linked to an increase in quakes, to shut down without notice or a hearing, according to an Associated Press story.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission is given authority through the bill to take any necessary action.

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