The Florida legislator is full of "flip flop" legislators that are reversing laws made in 2005 and 2006 which supported lower insurance rates and protected insurance consumers from unscrupulous insurers. Governor Charlie Crist ran on a platform of helping Floridians keep insurance rates down and he is sticking to that promise even as other politicians who once voted for such laws are now firmly supporting the opposite measures. These "flip flop" politicians are filing laws that would allow rates to go as high as the insurance industry can make them and laws that take benefits away from consumers following disaster. Crist seems to be standing tall against the insurance industry and for the people, unlike other politicians who are currently getting their responses and "speaking points" from insurance lobbyists.

In a National Underwriter article, "Gov. Crist Says No To Proposed Insurance Deregulation Bill," Crist was on record as saying he does not support the current rate deregulation bill. Consumer groups agree with the Governor:

"The consumer groups reacted favorably to the news. Consumer Federation of America’s (CFA) director of insurance, Bob Hunter, said in a statement, “It is outrageous to claim that this bill falsely promises ‘consumer choice,’ when its purpose is to let insurance companies charge whatever high rate they want with no consumer protections in a market with virtually no competition. The bill is an insurance industry wolf wrapped in consumer-choice-like lamb clothing.”

Birny Birnbaum, executive director for the Center of Economic Justice (CEJ), told NU Online that the bill is similar to legislation that passed the legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. Crist.

That bill would have allowed homeowners insurers to charge rates not approved by the OIR if they met certain surplus requirements.

Mr. Birnbaum called this year’s bill a “little more far-reaching,” as the capital level limits in last year’s bill do not apply.

“It’s unclear what you’re trying to accomplish with a deregulation bill,” Mr. Birnbaum said.

He noted that the Florida market has shown that it is not competitive, and so competition and market forces will not lead to favorable prices for consumers. Regulatory oversight, he stated, is the only thing protecting consumers from excessive rates."

Birny Birnbaum and Bob Hunter are just about the smartest people I know who are not employed by the insurance industry when it comes to understanding insurance rates. Florida legislators who want to do "the right thing" for Florida and their constituents should listen to them. Governor Crist and Senator Fasano have listened to these scholars and read what they have written about this proposed legislation and that is why their views make a lot more sense. Other legislators are adopting the insurance lobby’s attempts to "spin" this craziness into law and policy.

  • What happened last year was legislators got to take a free vote for the insurance companies (and collect contributions) knowing Crist would veto the bill. They’re playing games.

    Flex rates are also bad for consumers. 10% increases year after year aren’t something anybody wants to pay. But its harder for the public to understand and may even sound reasonable to some people. Watch for some serious horse trading.

    I don’t believe that our regulatory environment is unfriendly to insurance companies. We pay the highest rates in America. Do they need more flexibility? I don’t see it.

  • Chip Merlin

    Bill,

    Keep up the good fight.

    I wonder if those clever insurance industry lobbyists already have other politicians all lined up, ready to say that they stood up to them, and got the bad law limited to just a ten percent rate increase, year after year. In that manner, those crafty politicians being supported by the insurance industry can attempt to look good at election time.

    They will claim that they are champions for their constituents when in reality, those politicians were part of the insurance companies’ plan for rate increases from the very start.