RALEIGH, NC (WECT) – A proposed increase to insurance rates prompted a number of homeowners to make the drive from the coast to the capital Wednesday.
The Department of Insurance held its first ever public comment session for a rate increase proposed by the North Carolina Rate Bureau. The DOI has already received at least 3,280 written comments about it, but Wednesday's event allowed for a face-to-face plea to not accept the rate as proposed.
It would average out to about 17% for the entire state, but 33 coastal counties would see an increase closer to 30%. Kure Beach Mayor Dean Lambeth drove some of his constituents to Raleigh and they were some of the first to speak.
"I feel like they're abusing us," said Charlotte Philemon, a 19-year resident of the beach town.
Both the mayor and town commissioner Emilie Swearingen shared their frustration about a plan that they said discriminates against the people who worked hard in life to enjoy their later years away from nursing homes.
"Yes, we have a lot of retirees but most of us are not wealthy," Swearingen said. "Many of us are living off Social Security and low retirement income."
That's exactly the case for J. Finley Boney who said the increase would make it next to impossible to keep his house in Ocean Isle Beach out of foreclosure.
"I know that there are others out there," he said. "And they are as poor as I am."
There was more to the comment session than beach town retirees. Realtors, homebuilders and elected leaders lined up to speak on behalf of the thousands of colleagues and constituents they represent. Each one added reasons of how the proposed increase would hurt businesses, families and the entire Carolina coast.
"If it were a tax increase…people would be voted out of office," said Dare County Manager Robert Outten.
It's up to an elected leader to make the final call. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin will negotiate with the NCRB, which is independent of state government. If the two cannot agree on a rate, which could be lower than what's proposed, then a public hearing will be called.
There's still time to add your opinion. You have until Friday to email comments to email@example.com or address your letter to: NCDOI; Attn. Bob Mack; Property & Casualty Division; 1201 Mail Service Center; Raleigh, NC.27699-1201.
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