Insurers tip-toe into coastal markets in Alabama, Mississippi

A handful of new insurers have trickled into the coastal markets of Alabama and Mississippi in the last year, offering new options to some homeowners.

Coastal American, PURE, American Strategic, Wilshire, Republic and Southern Fidelity aren’t household names, and may not increase competition enough to lower prices.

Still, the appearance of new carriers means that a few thousand policyholders could have more options in each state at a time when options for wind coverage have been dwindling. And it indicates that some insurers believe they can make money off the high premiums paid by Gulf Coast homeowners. If they’re right, others could follow.

“We’re treading water to some degree,” said Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. “It seems like I take three steps forward and fall back two.”

Regulators have been courting the new companies. Mississippi officials count 20 firms that have entered the state since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, and Chaney estimates at least half are doing business on the coast.

Alabama Commissioner Jim Ridling will meet with insurers in Orlando, Fla., this week in hopes of luring more firms to the state.