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CNN's Chetry: If the Fires Don't Take It, 'Insurance Companies Just Might'

     CNN is taking a page straight out of its “attack the insurance company” playbook from Hurricane Katrina, except this time they’re starting early.

 

     “American Morning” criticized insurance companies on its October 26 broadcast for adjusting coverage requirements after wildfires have plagued Southern California in recent weeks.

     CNN is taking a page straight out of its “attack the insurance company” playbook from Hurricane Katrina, except this time they’re starting early.

 

     “American Morning” criticized insurance companies on its October 26 broadcast for adjusting coverage requirements after wildfires have plagued Southern California in recent weeks.

 

     Insurance companies stand to lose $1.6 billion from those wildfires but could be much higher, according to TheStreet.com.

 

     “[T]he California wildfires are leveling entire communities, leaving homeowners with nothing,” said CNN “American Morning” host Kiran Chetry. “But, what the fires don’t take, the insurance companies just might. A bad and costly situation for homeowners may have just gotten much worse.”

 

     With these losses mounting, home insurers are retooling their policies for homes in areas where wildfires pose a high risk, according to the report.

 

     “[I]nsurers are also ordering homeowners to clear brush, cut down trees, even install fireproof roofs,” CNN correspondent Chris Lawrence said. “The improvements can cost up to $20,000 with no guarantee their policies won’t be canceled.”

 

     CNN interviewed one homeowner “threatened with cancellation and charged exorbitant rates.” Sharmila Bhushan told CNN she wasn’t getting a fair deal from an insurance company because they weren’t taking enough risk with her property. But, she confused managing her risk of owning a home in a in a fire-prone area with the risk a company manages when it agrees to insure that property.

 

     “Basically they just don’t want to take any risk and that’s what insurance is for – to manage your risk,” Bhushan said to CNN.

 

     CNN continued to stack the report against insurers by bemoaning the insurer’s profit motive.

 

     “Managing that risk can be profitable,” Lawrence said. “State Farm and Allstate (NYSE:ALL) each made $5 billion in profit last year.”

 

     The segment also included incendiary remarks from “consumer advocate” Douglas Heller of the pro-regulation group The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights.

 

     “The insurance industry is looking at American consumers sort of like they look at a casino,” Heller said. “‘We just hit three blackjacks in a row, let’s take our chips off the table and leave.”

 

     Heller attacked insurance companies for not being as willing to insure homeowners that rebuild in the same fire-prone areas over-and-over again.

 

    “We’re going to force you to spend more money to comply with our -- to comply with our -- new-fangled policy rules and if you don’t spend that money, we’re dropping you,” Heller added.

 

     “American Morning” did offer remarks from Candysse Miller of the Insurance Information Network. She said, “it begs the question, are we [California homebuilders] building in safe areas,” when there are wildfires in the same places every 20 years.

 

     But Miller’s brief comments were buried three minutes into the report. 

     Back on August 30, 2006, CNN “American Morning” Business Correspondent Ali Velshi was highly critical of insurance companies in a series called “Red Tape and Rubble.” According to Velshi, they had not acted in a timely enough manner resolving Hurricane Katrina claims, despite a report on August 22, 2006 from the Insurance Information Institute that said 95 percent of claims from Katrina have been finalized “and the vast majority” of those dealing with insurance claims in Mississippi and Louisiana “are satisfied with their insurance company.”