Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Long Island Home Insurance in the News

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

It's been an interesting Summer in the homeowners insurance business here on Long Island, but it all seemed to come to a head a couple of weeks ago when Newsday started their series about Allstate and Liberty Mutual causing some trouble by non-renewing some people because they did not carry their car insurance with them along with their house insurance.

Regular readers of this blog have known about that for some time. In fact, everybody involved, including the New York State Insurance Department, agrees that Allstate even went so far as to discuss their plans with the previous administration of the Insurance Department even though they did not think it was required, and the plans were approved. (Author's note - apparently the State Insurance Department actually reads this blog, and I had a call from them today. It is their position that Allstate did NOT receive any kind of formal approval from the prior administration at the Insurance Department for their actions) Liberty Mutual had the same opinion that approval was not required, and so did not ask.

I am certainly the last person to be an advocate on behalf of Allstate, who has always been one of our biggest competitors in the home and auto insurance market here on Long Island. But this situation points up several issues that, while seeming to help on the surface, may not be good for the overall marketplace in the longer term.

For one thing, there are several major carriers (GEICO, Progressive, AIG, Unitrin Direct, and others) who are ONLY writing auto insurance, which is currently more profitable for them and carries virtually NO catastrophe risk exposure from hurricanes and other major weather events. Yes there may occasionally be a bad car accident that costs an insurance company several million dollars, but that pales in comparison with $65 Billion of insured losses from Katrina, which was estimated to wipe out all insurance company profits in that area from the last 20 years. Why isn't the State Insurance Deparment insisting that these carriers participate in the property market some way, whether by writing propery insurance or by putting contributions in a pool to back up those companies who do?

Next problem. Allstate had gotten this approved by the State Insurance Department before they started. Now they are being told that this doesn't count. One of the advantages companies always felt they had here in New York was that, even though we are a lawsuit and claim-happy bunch here in the New York area and on Long Island in particular, at least our insurance department was known for being firm and consistent, so that decisions could be made based on what they were told by the regulators. Now the insurance department is saying that's no longer the case, they can tell you one thing and change it completely a short while later. Lack of consistency is very dangerous in terms of encouraging new companies to come in to our market.

The third issue here is the government telling a private company in an open market place who they can and can not take or cancel as clients. I know this is no consolation if you are one of the people cancelled by Allstate, Liberty Mutual, State Farm or one of the many other carriers who are taking these actions. But our economy is based on capitalism, a free market, and supply and demand for the product involved. It may indeed be the place of government to step in and say that a company can't discriminate based on things like race, national origin, or other criteria that can be broadly grouped under the heading of 'prejudice'. But to start telling companies who they must insure based on what can be considered legitimate business criteria (such as not buying more coverage from them) is a very dangerous step in the wrong direction.

The fact is that you do not have a constitutional right to be offered an inexpensive homeowners insurance policy regardless of how exposed your home is to windstorms, or if it's in an earthquake zone, or next to a brush area that has major fires each time there is a thunderstorm, or any other criteria that can be shown to increase your risk of loss. You have the right to sell your house and purchase one somewhere else, or to shop around for the best price you can get for the coverage you want from companies who, based on our highly competitive free market, are willing to sell the coverage.

The FEMA Flood Insurance Program, available throughought Long Island and all over the country, is a good example of the opposite of what is being done here in the homeowners insurance market. FEMA has to take all people who apply and qualify. The government sets the rates and is considered the only entity large enough to insure the kind of catastrophe risk represented by flooding, which can affect thousands of people at the same time (as opposed to a fire or car accident, which might affect more than one person or property, but not likely a whole town or city)

But the FEMA program is way past bankrupt, and politicians who represent areas that do not get floods are sick of their constituents' tax dollars being diverted to pay for losses to homes in flood prone areas that get damaged again and again.

I don't claim to have the solutions here, but this is a complicated issue that should not be played out in news headlines about the big bad insurance companies picking on the masses without cause.

As always, for more information, visit our web sites at and

Monday, September 10, 2007

Upcoming Photography Exhibit

Do you love nature photography? Well, if you do, don’t miss this show!

The NWPLI (Nature and Wildlife Photographers of Long Island) will have its second annual Autumn Exhibition beginning September 22th through December 9th.
It is being held at the Castello di Borghese Winery in Cutchogue.
The exhibit will showcase the group’s best work in nature, wildlife and landscape photography.

NWPLI has been awarded numerous honors for its work, most recently winning the 2006 Nature’s Best Photography International Awards (Camera Club Category) sponsored by Nature’s Best Photography Magazine.
Visit the group's website:

The photography on display will include natural subjects that have been captured with digital and film cameras. Photos are from Long Island's own natural surroundings.
Some selected images will also be available for purchase.

A Preview Show will open on Saturday, September 15, 2007

The full exhibition will begin on Sunday, November 4, 2007 at 11:00 AM, with both NWPLI Board Members and photographers on hand to discuss their work and the group’s mission.
The exhibition is scheduled to end on December 9, 2007.

For directions to Castello di Borghese…
Click Here!

For additional information, contact Lou Buonomo at

I hope you have the opportunity to stop by the exhibit on your yearly autumn visit to the wineries and to the pumpkin farms!
It’s nature photography at its best!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge, Sag Harbor

You can have the chickadee eating out of your hand! Literally!
At the Elizabeth A. Morton Wildlife Refuge in Sag Harbor, the chickadee will eat sunflower seeds right out of your hand.
There are hiking trails and a beach on the Peconic Bay, and many beautiful birds.
Now, I don't want all of you rushing over there to scare the poor little birds away!
Be respectful of nature. Stand quietly with hand extended. Quietly!
The chickadee are as light as a feather.
Try not to move!
There are some other rules that you should follow when observing nature on Long Island or elsewhere.
"Don't take anything but photographs and don't leave anything but footprints!"