State officials say the wildfire map does not affect insurance rates and availability

The fallout from Oregon’s new disaster map continued Friday, as the state’s insurance regulator released a statement trying to reassure angry property owners that insurance policies are ineffective and serve no purpose. using a map making individual home insurance decisions and at what cost.

He also issued a letter to insurers warning them that falsifying their decisions on state maps is against state insurance laws, and violators face a $10,000 penalty.

The unusual move comes as a result of public and political outcry following the release of the Oregon Department of Forestry map in June. The following letters went out in July to thousands of property owners warning them that their properties are at “high” or “extreme” risk of fire and will be subject to new building codes and obligations to remove flammable vegetation around them. existing buildings and structures.

What he did was quick and bad. About 2,000 people sent comments to the agency, and staff were criticized by angry property owners at a meeting of about 1,200 people on July 26. dangerous, and could affect insurance rates and availability.

With Republicans using the storm map as a political threat and the agency facing accuracy questions, State Forester Cal Mukumoto decided last week to pull the plug – removing the map and halting the threat placement of any property – until the map is cleaned up.

In an article on Friday, State Insurance Commissioner Insurance Andrew Stolfi said that the new information collected by the Division of Financial Regulation shows that the fear of insurance companies that use the map to make decisions is unfounded.

The division issued a “data call” to insurers doing business in Oregon to find out if they use or plan to use the state’s risk map for underwriting or decision making. Underwriting is a risk assessment process that an insurance company goes through when issuing or renewing a policy. Ratings and pricing.

The agency said that insurers should report the data honestly, and all responded that they do not use the state map and have no intention of doing so. Nor has the division received new documents that include wildfire maps as part of the audit, the commission said.

“This confirms what we knew: Insurance companies are not using fire risk maps,” Stolfi said in the article. “Insurance companies have been using their risk maps and other risk management tools to assess fire risks for years in their decision making and underwriting.”

Unfortunately, he added, the danger of wildfires has increased in Oregon. People who are removed or not replaced must work with an agent or contact this section’s consumer representative if they need help.

A warning letter to insurance agents said consumers need accurate information about the decisions made in their policies.

“The insurance industry has reliable tools used to make pricing and underwriting decisions that have been in the market for years,” it said. “It is a violation of the Insurance Code to make a false statement about an election or fire hazard map. Any person who violates the Insurance Code can be fined up to $10,000 per violation.”

Currently, the forest department does not have a definite date when the revised maps and hazard zones will be available. Derek Gasperini, a spokesman for the agency, said Friday that Doug Grafe, the state’s fire program manager and director of fire safety for the agency, will meet with the state forest next week to set a schedule.

– Ted Sickinger; tsickinger@oregonian.com; 503-221-8505; @tedsickinger