Scott Johnson, Executive Director of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, has called me out for allegedly being on the wrong side of an insurance issue. In his post, CITIZENS SINKHOLES…Yet Another Look!, he stated in part:
And so I’ve made overtures to my friend Chip Merlin, the founder of the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA). He also employs Sean Shaw, who has gone from advocating for consumers to advocating for public adjusters.
I know this is a challenge; after all, public adjusters are the only real winners in this deal. But, my prayer is that Chip will do as he’s done when we’ve worked together in the past; simply examine the evidence a little more closely to see if there’s room for a different conclusion. Maybe ask a few questions. Seek a few clarifications. Try to find out, as I have, what’s best for the majority of consumers.
While we wait to see if Chip Merlin’s mind is made up or not, and thus whether Sean Shaw may rethink his stance as well here, again, is the exchange between myself and Ms. Stevak.
I am glad Scott Johnson is praying for me. I need all the help I can get. Hopefully, he has a good relationship with the Almighty, and I’ll be the better for it, in a Rick Perry type of way.
The first point Johnson needs to correct is that advocating for policyholders and advocating for public adjusters are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, most public adjusters I know want better benefits and coverage for policyholders and want insurance premiums to be affordable. I am not certain if Johnson uses this rhetoric because so many in the insurance industry have waged a slanderous war, without evidence, arguing that public adjusters are a menace to the insurance industry. If he is trying to use “guilt by association” propaganda, I guess Sean and I are guilty. We are attorneys who represent policyholders against insurance companies, and we generally, but not always, support the views of public adjusters.
The second point is that, after study and participation on a government task force, I support tiered increases in rates. I have repeatedly expressed my opinion that the recently passed legislation would raise rates unfairly. I wrote in Taking Tough Positions On Citizens Property Insurance Task Force, that I opposed the legislation for a number of reasons. In Rates are the "Elephant in the Room" with Government Sponsored Property Insurance Programs, I explained that that rates and coverage have wide reaching political, social and economic impact; they are not simply concerns for an insurer looking to make a profit.
My thoughts on the current situation were published over two years ago when I wrote:
The insurance industry will scream because they want no limit on what they can charge–free enterprise run amuck. Citizens policyholders will scream because they want no rate increase whatsoever–socialistic paternalism. Everybody else has a stake in what we do and maybe they will tell these two groups to shut up and play fair.
The extraordinary rate increases that our Legislature has allowed are the result of laws which allow insurance free enterprise to run amuck. As an analogy, if this were health insurance, we would have excluded the pool of people most likely to become ill with cancer. Further, we would have allowed health insurance companies to charge those poor souls whatever they want. All we need to do is substitute the words “sinkhole” for “cancer” and “property” for “health.”
The insurance industry never wanted to insure sinkhole loss. Its lobbyists and advocates, like Scott Johnson, have now found a Legislature willing to absolve them of this obligation — the premiums are so high that they are unaffordable. Even if you can afford to purchase sinkhole coverage, the draconian burdens of proof mandated by this Legislature make claims extremely difficult.
I will study this issue more when I have the chance. For now, I am leaving my office this afternoon and joining in a banner waving protest against this wrongful situation.