Massachusetts State Senate launching investigation into home insurance rate hikes

The Massachusetts State Senate has just launched an inquiry into what local leaders are calling a troubling hike in local home insurance rates. The rate hikes are being planned by several of the largest insurance providers in the state in an attempt to recoup losses after this year's devastating winter.

The insurers in question include Mapfre USA, Safety Insurance and Bunker Hill Insurance, and their hikes are set to hit an average increase of 9 percent.

While state senators acknowledge that they expected some level of rate increase, the legislature wants to be sure that providers aren't taking advantage of this past year's bad weather to significantly raise the base rate of their premium.

Democratic state Senator Michael Barrett is currently serving as chairman of the Post Audit and Oversight Committee, and plans to hold a hearing on the matter this September.

"We want to make sure they didn't use a good crisis to get themselves a very good outcome," he said.

His committee holds subpoena power, and is using it to investigate both why such high premium increases were necessary as well as why state agencies accepted the planned hikes without first consulting with consumers.

Generally speaking, insurance premiums rise between 2 and 3 percent a year. However, insurance firms have argued that the record breaking 110.6 inches of snow that blanketed Boston this past winter caused them devastating financial losses. One of the biggest offenders were ice dams: sheets of solid ice that would form on rooftops and prevent melting snow from properly draining, instead causing it to leak into homes.

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