Governor Robert Bentley on Wednesday continued the state's long-term efforts to address the availability and rising cost of homeowners insurance.
By signing an executive order, Governor Bentley formally established the Alabama Center for Insurance Information & Research. The Center will be housed at the University of Alabama's Culverhouse College of Commerce and will focus on providing valuable information to property owners throughout the state.
"This will be an independent, non-profit research center that will examine the challenges facing Alabama homeowners and produce thorough, unbiased research on the availability and affordability of homeowners insurance across Alabama," Governor Bentley said. "This will be a source of information that helps homeowners make informed decisions. This will help encourage competition, which will also benefit consumers. And I believe that, over time, the work of this center can make insurance premiums more affordable while connecting more people with the comprehensive types of coverage they need."
Addressing the availability and affordability of homeowners insurance is a long-term priority of Governor Bentley's. The Governor established the Coastal Insurance Commission in April of 2011 to address the insurance needs of people living along the Alabama Gulf Coast, which is vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes. In the wake of the April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak, the commission's mission was expanded, and the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission was established to take a statewide approach to addressing insurance needs.
Commission members studied various issues related to a lack of affordable and comprehensive homeowners insurance in some areas due to natural disasters. Establishing the Alabama Center for Insurance Information & Research was a key recommendation of the commission.
Long-term goals of the research center include:
Becoming a statewide and credible source of information on risk management
Helping Alabama insurance buyers in understanding risk mitigation and consequential savings when shopping for insurance
Providing valuable new insights to policy makers, consumers, and insurance and risk management professionals alike
Identifying any barriers that may discourage new insurers from doing business in Alabama
"As a life-long resident of Coastal Alabama, I feel the opportunities for broader coverage and more affordable coverage will be enhanced greatly by establishing this center," said Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell, who chaired the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission. "The open dialogue that will result from this center will help provide a better insurance market for all of our citizens. This is something we've needed for a long time."
"The commission conducted a rigorous investigation to find solutions to the problems faced by a significant number of people. Research and education continually surfaced as necessary components to any solution," said Alabama Department of Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling, who served on the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission. "Consumer education and information from this center can help people make informed decisions and get more for their insurance dollar. By establishing this research center, the Governor is fulfilling a promise to the people of our state."
"I've lived on the Coast for most of my life, and I've experienced the same changes in the homeowners insurance market as my neighbors," added Julie Magee, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Revenue and a fellow member of the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission. "We need a long-term solution to having an affordable and quality product that all homeowners can obtain. This research center is a tremendous step in reaching our goal of more affordable and accessible homeowners insurance for people throughout Alabama."
Commission members suggested housing the Alabama Center for Insurance Information & Research in a university setting. Such a location will provide intellectual, research and support resources that can benefit the work of the center.
"We are honored and pleased that the University of Alabama was chosen as the location for the Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research," said Dr. Michael Hardin, Dean of the Culverhouse College of Commerce at UA. "The mission of the University of Alabama is learning, research, and service. This center fits into all three goals. It will bring together the best minds to solve important problems, and the information provided by this center can benefit people throughout Alabama -- and beyond."
The Alabama Center for Insurance Information & Research will be governed by an advisory board of directors comprised of representatives from each of the following:
Alabama Department of Insurance
Alabama Department of Revenue
Alabama Senate and House Insurance Committee Chairpersons
Alabama Bankers Association
Alabama Mortgage Bankers Association
Home Builders Association of Alabama
Alabama Smart Homes (Smart Homes America)
Consumer Group Organizations and Nonprofits