Maryland’s insurance commissioner warns of enduring climate risks in underwriting coverage


HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — Insurance is something that everybody needs, and the weather is an increasing factor when it comes to paying our premiums. Maryland’s top insurance regulator was in Hagerstown to start the week, meeting with small business leaders about their protection.

Storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and forest fires seem to be in the news constantly. WDVM-TV 25 meteorologist Scott Sumner has an explanation.

“Climate change is due more to natural patterns and mother nature than man,” Sumner said. “Now I think there’s a combination of both.”

It is starting to affect our standard of living.

“As weather changes and weather patterns change, losses can occur, and so it’s important that people pay attention to those patterns,” said Kathleen Birrane, Maryland State Insurance Commissioner.

Commissioner Birrane regulates Maryland’s insurance market, working with the legislature on consumer protection. She is the watchdog protecting policy-holders so they are covered by solvent, reliable carriers.

“Lots of people are reluctant to purchase flood insurance,” Birrane said. “They feel like, ‘Gee, I am not really in a flood-prone area. This isn’t going to impact me.’ What I would say is everybody is at risk.”

Birrane says the federal flood insurance program helps minimize that risk, but Sumner knows where the insured are especially vulnerable,.

“More people are being impacted by hurricanes. Why? Because they’re living right along the coast. Our communities are booming right along the coast,” Sumner said.

“If you are in a less risky area you would likely have to pay less — sometimes much less — for flood insurance than you may have had to pay a year or two years ago,” said Commissioner Birrane.

The commissioner will be meeting with members of the General Assembly when they convene in January. She points to the recent Ellicott City flood as an example of a “hundred-year” natural disaster occurring more frequently. To minimize storm risk she is urging local communities to be resilient in their land-use planning.

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