News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

State regulators ease concerns on risk maps

Those in the Santiam Canyon looking to rebuild from the 2020 fires have received some positive news from state insurance regulators.

The Oregon Division of Financial Regulations in an Aug. 12 press release noted that insurance companies in Oregon “did not use, and currently have no plans to use” the controversial state wildfire risk map in their decision-making.

The risk maps, mandated by Senate Bill 762, which is aimed at improving the state’s wildfire preparedness and resiliency, were released at the end of June. They were designed to let property owners know if they were in a high-risk area and might be required to address fire-hardening and defensible space issues.

But the maps were withdrawn by the Oregon Department of Forestry earlier this month amid criticism from the Legislature and members of the public who raised concerns at public outreach sessions.

A key concern of lawmakers and the public was whether the new maps would lead to higher insurance rates or perhaps even cancellations of individual policies. 

According to a press release from the Department of Consumer and Business Services, once concerns were raised on the new map, the division put out a formal data call to all relevant insurers doing business in Oregon to confirm they were not using or planning to use the state wildfire risk map for underwriting or rating decisions. 

All of the insurers, the statement said, responded that they do not use the map for rating and underwriting and have no plans to use it for rating and underwriting. In addition, division officials say they have not received any new proposed rate filings that include the state wildfire map as a rating factor. The division does not set rates or determine what rates should be.  However, all rates used by insurance companies in Oregon must be filed with the division for review. 

“This confirms what we knew: Insurance companies are not using the state wildfire risk map,” said Andrew Stolfi, Oregon’s insurance commissioner. “Insurance companies have been using their own risk maps and other robust risk management tools to assess wildfire risk for years in making rating and underwriting decisions. 

“We believe there has been confusion between decisions based on insurers’ continued use of their own tools, including their own risk maps, and the discussions on the new state wildfire risk map. We encourage insurers and agents to be careful in how they describe underwriting and rating decisions.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Consumers with questions or concerns can contact the Division of Financial Regulation’s consumer advocacy hotline at 888-877-4894. Consumers can also file a complaint online at dfr.oregon.gov (search for questions or complaints).

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