In the wake of Hurricane Andrew in August 1992, insurance companies made a mistake in how they priced insurance initially based on weather events, Hunter said. It made sense at that time to increase rates, he said.
Smeltzer said Nationwide's rates are never based solely on one event, nor are they based on a series of past events.
"They are based on trends over a period of time and we are not allowed to recoup past losses," she said. "Rate increases are a direct reflection of our costs going up."
But Hunter said they should already be prepared for these events.
"There are times that are learning experiences for insurance companies, like Hurricane Andrew. But everyone has been using models and a more scientific approach since then," Hunter said. "There are times when they get a surprise and a big change is necessary but there is nothing going on like that for homeowners insurance in West Virginia."
But state Insurance Commissioner Michael Riley said extreme weather events are the exact reason homeowners' insurance prices have gone up for the past few years.
"We've had significant weather incidents in West Virginia and that has resulted in increased claims for homeowners," Riley said. "Both the severity and frequency of claims have increased over the past few years, which have resulted in rate increases by some insurers."
Riley commended the insurance industry in the state for bringing in extra adjusters and setting up special offices to respond to the "very significant" number of claims issued after the summer derecho and Hurricane Sandy.
Riley and Beck said two of Nationwide's reasons for the Johns' $300 yearly increase make sense -- extreme weather events have caused rates to increase in the state. But the divorced male explanation puzzled them (they weren't aware of Nationwide's marriage discount). Beck suggested that Johns -- and anyone with homeowners insurance questions -- can file a complaint with the Offices of the Insurance Commissioner.
"I'd be happy to go to the company, find out exactly what the increase was and why there was an increase to see if they are applying rates they have on file here appropriately," Beck said. "The new year is a good time to look at your policy and know what your deductible is."
But that's not enough for Johns. He wants to see change.
"I think our politicians need to get involved more with the ordinary person. When these companies submit a price increase, they shouldn't let it happen. They're putting it right back on the little guy," he said.
Riley said insurance companies' rate increases are approved through his office and "is based upon the experience the individual carrier has, which is all driven by the losses themselves."
Reach Megan Workman at megan.work...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.