North Carolina insurance commissioner hears Pender County leaders' concerns

SURF CITY, NC (WECT) - North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey spoke with Pender County leaders Wednesday at a stop in Surf City.

Causey opened the discussion to the mayors, county commissioners, fire department chiefs and other leaders.

In the question and answer session, many leaders asked Causey about the North Carolina Rate Bureau's proposed rate hike on homeowner's insurance. Causey says he denied this request on Jan. 1.

"I did not see the justification for that and there has to be justification," Causey said. "If you want to charge somebody a higher price, a higher premium, I think you need to show why you need to charge that higher premium."

An independent judge will determine if the rate hike will occur at a hearing on July 23 with the Department of Insurance and the Rate Bureau.

"My job as commissioner, the insurance commissioner of North Carolina, is to protect consumers and make sure that consumers are represented, but at the same time we have to make sure our insurance companies are financially sound and they're able to pay claims when a claim is filed," Causey said.

"It's sort of a balancing act, but I can tell you that at this time, the people in Pender County or coastal North Carolina do not need to worry unnecessarily about getting a rate increase next week or anything like that. It's something that we're working out over time."

Lawmakers also told Causey they want a uniform way to rate wind insurance along the coast.

The lawmakers voiced their concern about recruiting and retaining firefighters as well.

According to Causey, this is a problem across the state.

"Almost every fire department is concerned with volunteers," Causey said. "It's very hard for a lot of fire departments to recruit volunteers and it's even harder to keep those volunteers, to retain those volunteers, so what we're doing at the Department of Insurance is to work with our local fire departments, work with the schools in each county to find ways that we can get young people interested in becoming volunteer firefighters."

Causey said his department is also looking at better retirement options for firefighters to recruit younger volunteers.

Leaders said they feel the commissioner answered a lot of their questions Wednesday, and that he understood their problems.

"I'm well pleased with the way he answered our questions and it sounds like he is trying to help us," Surf City Mayor Douglas Medlin said. "Of course, we don't know how it's going to end up. I'm sure he can't tell you today exactly how it's going to end up then."

While he was in the area, Causey also met with a Jacksonville Rotary Club, visited with insurance agents and firefighters and visited the Burgaw Fire Department.

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