The Consumer Advocate for the Florida Public Interest Research Group, Brad Ashwell, wrote a letter published in the Gainesville Sun calling on consumers to urge Governor Crist to veto the State Farm bailout legislation. He clearly explained how the bill will harm Floridians:
"The problem is that this bill would remove consumer protections by no longer allowing the OIR to protect Floridians from excessive or discriminatory rate hikes as Kevin McCarty and his office have successfully done time and time again.
If HB 1171 becomes law, major insurance carriers would not only be able to charge whatever they like, they would also be able to game the system by manipulating rates, quoting excessive premiums to coastal homeowners, then dropping those policies if they choose to so they can maintain and grow inland policies where there is less exposure. The lack of predictability this would create is exactly what we don’t need in a state with an already fragile and overstrained property insurance market.
And perhaps the most troublesome provision is that the bill would help further grow the surpluses of these larger insurers while preventing small Florida-based carriers from doing the same. In this way the bill aims to provide an unfair competitive advantage to larger companies by discouraging across the board competition with smaller carriers. This would ultimately harm consumers and businesses by fostering an insurance market offering fewer choices in terms of dependable insurers. It’s also important to recognize that there’s no guarantee these large companies will continue writing policies in Florida.
Rather than deregulating the market, which hasn’t worked out in the past, we should be working on policy goals that support a more competitive insurance market that provides consumers with more affordable options. In short, we need more Florida-based companies competing, not fewer large insurers who dominate the market, essentially holding homeowners hostage, charging any rate they choose."
He is right, and nobody disputes his facts. Proponents of the bill argue it gives consumers the “choice” to pay excessive rates if they want. The legislators who voted for the bill did so because of political pressure, without understanding the consequences, or because they like the incentives offered by insurance companies for their votes. Either way, the “choice” is just a way to justify this bad legislation.