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Residents rip insurance regulators at Long Beach forum

Consumers greeted state insurance regulators with outrage Thursday night during a public forum in Long Beach.

Skyrocketing premiums for homeowners insurance fueled the frustration. Residents blasted Deputy Superintendent Ivan LaFayette of New York State Insurance, who attended the forum organized by Nassau County Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) and Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach).

Mark Jackson of Long Beach said his homeowners policy jumped from $800 to $2,300 a year. He blamed regulators for letting insurance companies run amok with pricing.

"What have you done? Nothing," Jackson said. "You're in bed with the insurance companies."

LaFayette defended his agency, saying existing law limits what regulators can do about rates. "We provide you with competition," LaFayette said.

That answer wasn't good enough for Chuck McGovern of Long Beach. He said his policy went from $670 to $2,000. "No one will insure anything down here," McGovern said.

"I get a call once a week about someone who has been dumped from their homeowners insurance," said Patty Dunham, Ford's legislative assistant.

Dunham said the meeting was scheduled before the recent wind and rainstorm that caused downed trees and widespread power outages.

Andy Mais, a spokesman for the State of New York Insurance Department, which regulates homeowner insurance providers in the state, said that the number of complaints about policy holders not being renewed by insurance companies has fallen since the height of nonrenewals in the summer and fall of 2007.

Between early 2006 and the fall of 2007, more than 9,000 Suffolk homeowners and over 6,500 Nassau residents received letters stating their policy wasn't being renewed.

The state Insurance Department couldn't provide updated numbers Thursday.

Under state law, insurance companies fearing large payouts after a major storm may not renew up to 4 percent of its homeowner customers statewide each year to reduce risk.

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