Julie Patel of the Sun-Sentinel published Battle Brewing Over Public Insurance Adjusters which was preceded by Florida Cabinet Tables Insurance Fee for Hurricane Claims: Fraud Suspected and a St. Petersburg Times article "State Delays Bond Sale for Hurricane Wilma Claims.” In each of these, the message from the insurance industry was clear:
The Florida Insurance Council, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and the Florida Property Casualty Association issued statements Wednesday backing bills filed this week by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and Rep. Janet Long, D-Seminole. They say public adjusters — who represent homeowners in claims disputes with their insurer — inflate claims, driving up costs for all policyholders.
The Florida Insurance Council provided a press release on it website that continued the insurance industry mantra:
The Florida Insurance Council shares concerns expressed by three Cabinet members today about unending claims from Hurricane Wilma and the pending 30 percent increase in a statewide surcharge on all Floridians. FIC today formally endorsed legislation (HB 1181, SB 2264) filed by Rep. Janet Long, D-St. Petersburg, and Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, requiring hurricane claims to be filed within three years of landfall instead of five years as in current law.
"As Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink noted, three years is more than enough time for a homeowner to know if they have had damage from a hurricane," said Guy Marvin, President of the Florida Insurance Council. "We will work with Rep. Long and Sen, Bennett."
"We share concerns of SBA members that many of the more recent Wilma claims are illegitimate and involve inappropriate activities by public adjusters," Marvin said. "We share concerns that with the statewide assessment going up, millions of Floridians are paying more on their insurance because of improper claims by some homeowners and some public adjusters in south Florida."
My post, Policyholders and Public Adjusting Under Attack in the Florida House of Representatives, had a number of comments. I replied that I suggest many public adjusters take to heart and then make a commitment on behalf of themselves and most importantly, the policyholders they help:
Everybody reading this should remember a few important aspects about our democratic process, the need to participate, and the need to reform when criticism is warranted:
1. Most elected officials truly want to make the "world, country, state" a better place to live and work. They are not corrupt, but are truly well meaning people.
2. Politicians viewpoints on issues are often ignorant because nobody knows everything. If full-time insurance lobbyists show propaganda to these elected officials that only shows that policyholders are getting something they do not deserve and that public adjusters are fleecing insurance companies and policyholders, you do not need to be a genius to appreciate their impressions and viewpoints.
3. Many insurance companies require and train their employees and agents to speak with elected representatives about issues in such a way to slant impressions to elected representatives about the need for laws that protect insurance company interests over consumer interests. They often have these scripted out as talking points so that the propaganda actually makes it sound like the proposed law is in favor of the policyholder—usually through the promise of lower rates which then never materialize or do so at the cost of not having coverage.
4. Unless interested people take an active role to visit with, write, and support representatives that appreciate the truth and the need for policyholder protection, the full time lobyists and employees of the insurance industry will prevail with their message.
5. You have to participate if you want justice to work in a democracy because large corporate interests have already figured this out and spend massive money and time coordinating special interests by industry.
6. Public adjusters have made numerous changes in the law and have made more suggestions for improving their trade and preventing abuses by some. This reform within the public adjuster trade through leaders in FAPIA and NAPIA needs to be explained and continue.
7. Show up and support representatives that appreciate the consumer side of insurance. You need to encourage and provide financial support to consumer organizations and FAPIA’s legislative efforts, including showing up next Tuesday for Frank Artiles in Coral Gables.
8. If you want justice, you cannot just sit back and expect others to do it all for you. You have to work at it with your time and money. Make a commitment and stick to it. If it is important enough, make a big commitment and encourage others. One person can make a difference.
9. Do not get discouraged. I have visited with and provided information to various representatives for a number of years. Sometimes, I have felt like it is just me, a few lobbyists I have personally hired because I have to work on my cases, and just a handful of others in Tallahassee trying to push for laws that favor consumers and explaining the important role of public adjusters. I feel as if I have wasted a significant amount of money and time while some other colleagues simply do nothing and provide no support. And, I still keep at it.
In contrast, the insurance lobbying effort is massive, professional, and full time. They can outspend and provide greater numbers of individuals in their efforts.
And, policyholders cannot give up because the alternative is unjust laws. Those well meaning political representatives understand the enormous wealth and resources of corporations. Contrary to popular rhetoric and demeaning criticism, most elected representatives are not "paid off" or "corrupt." They will listen if you can present a credible and persuasive impression that is based on genuine and authentic truth of an issue.