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Buckel seeks policyholder Katrina stories for legislative fight

Persistence pays, I always say, but I've never met anyone quite as persistent as Coast resident Kevin Buckel. Buckel has been fighting since Hurricane Katrina for stronger policyholder rights in Mississippi.

He's already preparing for his annual fight in the state Legislature for passage of a Policyholders' Bill of Rights. He needs your help. Kevin asks that policyholders, especially those left with only slabs after Katrina, send him their insurance stories. He wants to know five years after the storm how residents fared with their insurance claims.

You can post your story on his website, where you will also find a copy of the 2011 Bill of Rights.

Buckel won the state House's support for the Legislation this past session, by a vote of 107-7, but says he can't get any traction in the Senate.

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and Sen. Billy Hewes have thrown up the biggest obstacles, Buckel said. Bryant makes Senate committee assignments and presides over the Senate, while Hewes, an insurance agent, serves on the Insurance Committee.

"There's no doubt," Buckel said, "they are the key factors in not allowing a vote in the Senate Insurance Committee."

Buckel drafted his Bill of Rights after reviewing the rights other states extend to policyholders. The bill includes numerous provisions designed to protect Mississippi policyholders, who received an average of $15,915 per claim for Katrina losses. Those provisions place the burden of proof on insurance companies to show that a loss is excluded from coverage.

The bill also requires 30-day notice of premium increases of 10 percent or more, and mandates payment of an insurance claim within 30 days of the insurance company's determination of the amount owed for a loss.

While he mentions the legislation's opponents, Buckel also is quick to credit its champions: Rep. Diane Peranich, who will again sponsor the bill; Rep. Brandon Jones, a past co-sponsor; Rep. Walter Robinson Jr., the insurance committee chair who ensured the bill got a hearing and vote on the House side; and Sen. David Baria.

Good luck in 2011, Kevin.