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Putnam County faces insurance hike

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam County will face a 22 percent increase in its insurance premiums in 2014, if county commissioners renew their current insurance plan through Travelers Insurance.

The Payne & Garlow Insurance company, which serves Travelers customers in Putnam, Kanawha and Cabell counties, presented its insurance proposal to the Putnam County Commission on Tuesday.

If approved during its regular meeting June 25, the proposal could mean a premium increase of roughly $112,000, according to Commission President Joe Haynes.

Harold Payne, of Payne & Garlow, said the increase was mostly because of increasing natural disaster claims made across the country, as well as state laws regarding workers' compensation.

"It's a process, and I understand the frustration," Payne said. "Trust me, as a representative of Travelers, we understand the economic pinch all entities are in."

Gary Freeman, a state representative for Travelers, said while drawing workers' compensation invalidates a worker's right to sue his or her employers in most states, West Virginia allows both in most cases, which benefits employees injured in work-related accidents. That also discourages competition among insurers unwilling to incur so much extra liability, making Travelers one of only a few large-scale insurance options in the state, Freeman said.

The commission can still choose to insure its holdings through the state Board of Risk Insurance Management, and will evaluate the benefits of renewing its agreement with Travelers during its next meeting June 25 at 9 a.m.

"What we've seen is that the differences that you could attribute to claims history for the county, evaluations of property and those kinds of things is very minimal," said County Administrator Brian Donat.

"What I think it is is that the increase we're seeing in premiums this year is due largely to the company's exposure both in the state and the country as a whole. Our experiences here wouldn't dictate a sharp increase in our premiums. It's coming from elsewhere."

Also, the commission will hold a meeting to discuss changes in the Putnam County Health Department Thursday at 6 p.m. at the health department, on Corporate Center Drive in Scott Depot.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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