TerriLynn Bejcek, left, and Lassen County District 5 Supervisor Jason Ingram pose beside a billboard on Highway 395 near Janesville. Ingram said he will not be satisfied until homeowners actually get lower rates. Ingram was not available to comment on this story? Will this proposal satisfy him?

Ingram hopes to light a fire under insurance commissioner

Lassen County District 5 Supervisor Jason Ingram isn’t the least bit satisfied with words, plans or promises regarding the fire insurance nightmare his South County constituents face — risk everything you own by not having fire insurance or pay four or five times more or more to be insured through the state-managed FAIR Plan. Ingram refuses to let the issue go until California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara or the California Legislature fixes the problem — through the commissioner removing the cap on insurance rates and allowing insurance companies to compete in the marketplace or the legislators taking on the issue itself.

Lassen County District 5 Supervisor Jason Ingram.

“I sure hope insurance commissioner Lara does the right thing and raises the cap so private insurance companies can raise their premiums where they need to be in order to make money,” Ingram said.  “Insurance companies have to be able to make money in the state of California. They’re leaving simply because of the rate increase cap Ricardo Lara has put on them.”

Unable to raise the rates and recover some of the massive losses they suffered during recent wildfire seasons, the insurance companies have cancelled or refused to write new policies all across the state. Ingram places the cause of that problem squarely on Lara’s shoulders.

“We need to make it easier for the big insurance companies to be able to write policies,” Ingram said. “If the rate increase cap wasn’t there, and private insurance companies were able to write policies without having to send rate increase hikes to be approved by insurance commissioner Lara, we wouldn’t have lost Nationwide, Allstate, State Farm and the other big insurance companies that have left the state. We need all those big companies back in order to get a strong, competitive Insurance market back. That’s the goal, and I won’t stop fighting for us until that is accomplished,”

And Ingram didn’t hold back serving a big, steaming plate of ire to the state legislature, either.

“This is typical politics,” Ingram said. “Politicians create the problems so they can come up with the solutions.  It’s a sad story. Now what we have here is Governor (Gavin) Newsom blaming his insurance commissioner Lara for the crisis — which in a way, he is right.  That’s why he wrote an executive order demanding insurance commissioner Lara take action on this crisis. What I don’t understand is why this wouldn’t have bipartisan support (in the legislature) to fix this problem.  It’s affecting everyone in the state from rural areas like ours and outlying areas in Solano County all the way to San Bernardino County.”

Janesville home owner shares her story
TerriLynn Bejcek, a Janesville resident, said her family’s 2,500 square foot home located directly behind the Janesville Fire Department, has been insured by the same company for many, many years, but her policy was recently cancelled because she did not provide photographic proof that two 100- to 200-year-old trees near her home had been chopped down and removed. She said she will not cut those healthy, majestic trees down for any reason. She said her cancelled policy cost her $2,500 per year, and when she called the California FAIR Plan to see about getting insurance through them, the estimate rose all the way to $9,622 per year. And that stirred up the question demon inside her. She found out some things, but she’s still looking for answers.

TerriLynn Bejcek said the insurance on her 2,500 square foot home — about $2,500 per year — was recently cancelled. When she inquired about getting insurance through the California FAIR Plan, the premium rose to $9,622 per year.

According to the California FAIR Plan website, “The California FAIR plan Association was established to meet the needs of California homeowners unable to find insurance in the traditional marketplace. The FAIR Plan is not a state agency, nor it it a public entity. There is no public or taxpayer funding. The FAIR Plan is a syndicated fire insurance pool comprised of all insurers licensed to conduct property/casualty business in California … All licensed property/casualty insurers that write basic property insurance required by Insurance Code sections 100g1(a) are members of the FAIR Plan. The FAIR Plan issues policies on behalf of its member companies. Each member company participates in the profits, losses and expenses of the Plan in direct proportion to its market share of business written in the state.”

Not a state agency or a public entity? So what exactly is the FAIR Plan Association, Bejcek wonders.

She also wonders how in the world can the insurance companies cancel and/or quit selling insurance through the normal marketplace in California, but then join together to sell the same people they denied the very same insurance at four or five times the premium? Sounds like a great deal for the insurance companies!

“I’m not going to play that game,” she said.

According to the FAIR Plan website, it is a “temporary safety net. In the last decade, more Californians have turned to the FAIR Plan as wildfires have devastated California and some insurers have pulled back from these markets. While we will support homeowners regardless of a property’s fire risk, unlike traditional insurers, our goal is attrition. For most homeowners, the FAIR Plan is a temporary safety net — here to support them until coverage offered by a traditional carrier becomes available. We lead with our customer’s interests at heart and reach success when we are no longer needed.”

Bejcek also couldn’t make sense of this apparent discrepancy. Is joining the FAIR Plan Association an option or is it required?

“If you’re a licensed broker or agent and interested in placing business with the FAIR Plan, you’ll need to submit a New Broker Information Form,” according to the FAIR Plan website, but in another place it reads, “In accordance with California Insurance Code section 10095, every insurer licensed to write or engaged in writing basic property insurance in the state of California on a direct basis, shall be a member of the California FAIR Plan Association. Every insurer shall be a member as a condition of its authority to transact basic property insurance in the state.”

Bejcek said she will continue to question and investigate until she finds the answers or the problem is resolved. She said her family faces the same issues at the dozen or so rentals they have, most of them in the Janesville area. She said the risk to those investments — her family’s retirement — is nearly unbearable.