News Column

Ohio Storms Send Insurance Rates Rising

Aug 29, 2012

Mark Williams

The storms that have battered Ohio and the Midwest over the past several years also are taking a toll on the cost of insuring a home.Despite the increases, Ohio continues to rank as one of the more-affordable states for both homeowners and auto insurance.

Homeowners insurance rates among the top 10 insurers in the state increased by an average 6.2 p ercent last year, according to figures released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Insurance. That follows increases of 8.7 percent in 2010, 9.6 percent in 2009 and 7 percent in 2008.

Those insurers control about 70 percent of the state's market.

While insurance companies can't recover the losses caused by a storm, the pattern of severe storms can be factored into projections of future losses used to set rates.

For example, the powerful storms that struck Ohio at the end of June into early July led to preliminary losses totaling $433.5 million to $440 million, making it the third-costliest natural disaster to strike the state, according to the Ohio Insurance Institute.

The string of big losses for insurers began in 2007. In 2008, remnants of Hurricane Ike caused $1.1 billion in insured damage. Last year, a six-day stretch of storms in May produced up to $400 million in insured damage.

"A lot of companies are recovering from the costs of the catastrophes of the last couple of years," said Jeff Rieder, president of the Ward Group, a Cincinnati consulting and research firm.

Even with rates going up over several years, many insurers still are losing money on homeowner policies, he said.

"There is a debate on whether they're adequate to cover the total loss," he said.

Ohio had the sixth-lowest homeowners insurance rate and the 10th-lowest auto insurance rate, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Those averages are based on 2008-09 data, the most recent available.

That data show Ohioans paid $613 for homeowners insurance in 2009, $267 less than the national average.

"We are fortunate to have a robust insurance marketplace that produces competitive rates for consumers," said Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who also is the director of the Ohio Department of Insurance, in a statement.

Auto insurance rates, meanwhile, continue their decade-long run of minimal increases or decreases.

Rates among the state's top 10 auto insurance companies rose by an average 1.2 percent last year, down slightly from the 1.3 percent increase in 2009 and the 2.1 percent increase in 2008.

Rieder said the rate increase for auto policies last year was basically enough to cover the cost of inflation.

Insurance costs

Average change in homeowners insurance premiums at the top 10 companies in Ohio last year, listed in order of market share:

1. State Farm: 3.8%

2. Allstate: 14.4%

3. Nationwide: -3.6%

4. Liberty Mutual: 11.5%

5. Grange: 5.4%

6. Cincinnati Financial: 7.6%

7. Westfield: 5.3%

8. Erie: 9.9%

9. Auto Owners: 11.7%

10. Zurich: 7.3%

Average change in auto insurance premiums at the top 10 companies in Ohio last year, listed in order of market share:

1. State Farm: 0.5%

2. Progressive: 4.8%

3. Allstate: 2.3%

4. Nationwide: -4.8%

5. Grange: 0.3%

6. Geico: 0.8%

7. Liberty Mutual: 6.2%

8. Westfield: -0.8%

9. Zurich: 6.0%

10. Erie: -0.1%

Source: Ohio Department of Insurance

Source: (c)2012 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio). Distributed by MCT Information Services

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