State insurance commissioner visits Dare County

Published 12:00 pm Monday, April 15, 2024

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The North Carolina Department of Insurance does more than regulate insurance companies that do business in this state.

Current Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey provided a summary of the areas that the department regulates during a mid-March visit to Dare County.

Insurance fraud is one of the highest drivers pushing up insurance rates, said Causey. For one dollar of premium, 20 cents are used to cover fraud.

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The biggest fraud is found in health insurance, where four in 10 claims are fraudulent.

The department has sworn law enforcement officials to root out fraudsters. Causey said that North Carolina was the first state in the union to set up sworn law officers to go after insurance fraud. The date was 1945.

So far in 2024, law officers with the department have 125 arrests, 52 convictions and $722,000 in restitution and recoveries.

The department also handles licenses for bail bondsmen, insurance agents and adjusters, and building code and home inspectors. The department overseas motor clubs and collection agencies.

In connection with health insurance, the department operates SHIIP, standing for Seniors Health Insurance Information Program, which helps Medicare beneficiaries and caregivers with free information about health care products, billing errors, possible fraud and abuse.

In addition to homeowners insurance, the department also regulates vehicle insurance rates.

At the meeting in March, Causey talked about the proposal from the Rate Bureau, which represents insurance companies writing homeowners and personal automobile insurance. Companies writing such insurance must be a member of the Rate Bureau, which was created by the General Assembly in 1977.

The Rate Bureau filed a 3,000-page rate filing. A required public hearing was held. The department received 24,000 emailed comments plus mailed comments. People spoke at the hearing.

The comments were negative, responding to an average rate increase across the state at 42.2% with a mountain district at 4.3% increase and beach areas at 99.4% increase in Brunswick, Carteret New Hanover, Onslow and Pender counties.

In Dare, Currituck and Hyde beach areas, the proposed rate increase is 45.1%. In coastal areas of Dare, Currituck, Hyde and Pamlico counties, the proposed rate increase is 33.9%.

At the meeting, Causey called the rate hike, “excessive and unfairly discriminatory to certain sections of North Carolina.”

Causey has set an evidentiary hearing for Oct. 7, 2024 at 10 a.m. After that hearing, he has 45 days to issue an order. If the Rate Bureau does not like the order, the Rate Bureau can appeal to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.