Special to Guthrie News Page
By John D. Doak, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner
It has been an exciting and challenging year at the Oklahoma Insurance Department. We’ve dealt with tornadoes, high winds as well as earthquakes. We’ve implemented meaningful programs to help Oklahomans understand and respond to their insurance needs. We’ve also asked the State of Oklahoma to let us stand on our own two feet financially by removing us from the legislative appropriations process. 2016 has been a big year for our office and as a result, we’ve highlighted some of our efforts I am most proud of:
Because of the budget crisis in Oklahoma and the OID’s ability to operate on the licensing fees collected, our agency requested to no longer receive funds from the state. Since I took office in 2011, the OID has received more than $9,000,000 in appropriated funds. In that same time period, the Legislature has taken $28,500,000 from the OID’s revolving account.
A state of emergency was declared in 15 Oklahoma counties after deadly tornadoes, severe storms, straight-line winds and flooding. Staff from the OID canvassed Garvin County, one of the hardest hit areas, to speak with tornado victims and help them with insurance concerns. Anti-fraud investigators were also on the ground in the towns impacted by the storms to educate people on potential scams.
After months of research and a public hearing to discuss the rise in earthquake insurance rates, I declared the earthquake insurance market noncompetitive. The order changes the way insurance companies file their rates with the OID. Now, they must show a valid reason for a rate increase. The requirement ensures earthquake coverage remains available and affordable.
The OID stepped in to help after the strongest earthquake in Oklahoma history struck Pawnee County. I walked through some of the damage after the 5.6 quake with Mayor Brad Sewell, and our Consumer Assistance team set up at the Pawnee Public Library to answer insurance questions for anyone with damage.
The town of Cushing had significant damage after a 5.0 earthquake. As I toured the wreckage with city officials, I heard many stories from residents about why they didn’t have earthquake insurance. While the Consumer Assistance team sat up a make-shift outreach center at the Chamber of Commerce, I met with insurance agents in the area to clarify the common misconceptions on earthquake insurance.
Oklahomans now have access to a national service that helps them find life insurance policy benefits. The service builds on the life insurance policy locator program developed at OID and other state insurance departments. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) launched the new tool last month. The free tool has a bigger database that can search across the country, not just in Oklahoma. So far, the NAIC has received 635 policy locator requests from Oklahomans.
These are just some of the many achievements the OID has accomplished in 2016. We look forward to helping more Oklahomans in 2017 and making positive strides in the new year.
For more insurance information, contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 1-800-522-0071 or visit our website at www.oid.ok.gov.