I recently traveled to Tallahassee to do some legislative work relating to the insurance bills before the Florida Legislature. In addition, on Tuesday I participated in a very successful press conference with Representative Kriseman and Senator Fasano that outlined how anti-consumer these bills are. In response to this press conference, the insurance industry and their legislative supporters made some interesting comments:

Herald-TribuneInsurers Helped Write Bill Intended To shrink Citizens:

A controversial bill that would eliminate a state tool designed to keep property insurance rates in check was written for lawmakers by the insurance industry, the Herald-Tribune has learned.

The bill includes a number of provisions argued for by private insurers to stop Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run carrier, from competing with them for business. It aims to keep Florida homeowners from flocking to Citizens and would force them to buy policies in the private market even when rates are higher and the carriers less stable.

Authors of the draft bill initially told the Herald-Tribune the legislation introduced by Rep. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton insurance agent, and Sen. Alan Hays, an influential member of the Senate insurance committee, is nearly identical to what was drawn up in private by industry lobbyists.

"What difference does that make?" Hays responded. "What difference does it make who writes the bill? The Legislature is the group that’s going to pass the bill. Or reject it. So that’s all that matters."
Boyd’s reaction was similar.

"Nothing in the bill was presented that I didn’t approve," he said.

St. Petersburg TimesFasano, Kriseman Outraged Over Bills That Deregulate Florida Insurance Industry:

Samuel Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council, told reporters after the news conference that rate hikes are inevitable even if the bills do not pass. He also said that the sweeping reform bill, SB 408, is supported by the Office of Insurance Regulation and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

He said the hikes were needed because the industry has failed to build a surplus even after five years without damaging hurricanes. Why? Most of the sinkhole claims filed in Florida’s "Sinkhole Alley," Pasco and Hernando counties, he said, are fraudulent. And late-filed hurricane claims are coming in "like we’ve never seen before." For that he blames eager public adjusters who advertise in South Florida.

Palm Beach PostInsurers Tussle for Muscle in Clash Over Bill:

[Gov. Rick] Scott, who campaigned on overhauling property insurance, said Tuesday he supports deregulating the industry.

"We’ve got to look at what regulation is doing to cause rates to be higher. We’ve got to look at how long somebody has to file a claim – does that increase your cost? The sinkhole issue – does that increase your cost?" Scott said. "We’ve got to make sure that insurers want to do business in our state. We can’t ultimately guarantee and cover everybody’s insurance as taxpayers. That’s what I’m concerned about."

Asked where his proposal would cause premiums to increase, go down or remain the same, Richter said, "Anybody who thinks they can live in Florida and not have significant premiums thinks they can live in Rochester, New York, and not shovel snow."

St. Petersburg TimesFasano, Kriseman Outraged Over Bills That Deregulate Insurance Industry:

Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council, told reporters after the press conference that rate hikes are coming this year. "Rate increases are inevitable whether these bills pass or not," he said.

Miller said the industry needs to stop 99 percent of sinkhole claims that are fraudulent, as people use claims money to pay off their mortgages and purchase other items. He also mentioned that fraudulent hurricane claims are a huge problem for the industry. He also said the cost-driver package is supported by the Office of Insurance Regulation and CFO Jeff Atwater.

The preceding comments speak for themselves. I am pleased to see that the press has become fully engaged in the insurance debate and is asking some tough questions of our elected officials. I am also very happy that we have several individuals and groups in Tallahassee that are fighting on behalf of our insurance consumers. Keep it up! I truly believe that in the end, what is right will prevail. Hopefully, that axiom will be proven true this session and these far-reaching bills will either be defeated outright or amended in an appropriate manner. Lastly, those of us fighting for the consumer need to recognize the efforts of those legislators who are on our side. I want to especially commend Rep. Kriseman and Sen. Fasano for their consistent efforts on behalf of the insurance consumers of this state…thank you.

For information on all relevant bills and for the most up to date news articles on the subject, visit policyholdersofflorida.com.