Robin Westcott, Florida’s Consumer Advocate, led another meeting of the Homeowners’ Policy & Claims Bill of Rights Working Group – this time in Clearwater, Florida. Westcott’s office will proffer a draft for a statutory Bill of Rights for Homeowners and provide a detailed report outlining the concerns and suggestions of the Group.

Some of the topics discussed at the final public meeting of the Policyholders Workgroup included:

  • Powers of the Insurance Consumer Advocate: Robin Westcott agrees that the right of the ICA to intervene in rate hearings should be clarified.
  • There was a good deal of discussion on the need for more consumer education about insurance coverage and what consumers should be aware of when purchasing insurance. The Group stressed the idea that consumers often don’t understand what coverage they are buying in the HO policy and it is not possible to fully understand what risks are covered by a plain reading of policy language, despite the simplified declarations page.
  • Review of draft policyholder bill of rights recommendations.
  • A review of the draft recommendations for the Bill of Rights was circulated but many language changes are needed as this was a draft to foster dialogue. The Group is considering an introduction section to offer guidelines on policy purchase and coverage shopping before going into the consumer rights section. The Group may give an insurance definition section at end.
  • Texas already has an insurance consumer Bill of Rights that this Group will use to some extent. The Texas Consumer Bill of Rights is available here.
  • The decrease in market conduct reports was discussed and the reason given was the funding for such investigations of insurance companies.
  • The idea of creating a better web portal which would consolidate consumer information (Civil Remedy Notice of Insurer Violations database, consumer complaints, and consumer reviews “like an Angie’s List” of insurance companies, etc.) was discussed. Ms. Westcott believes there should be more consumer information and more transparency with carrier financial information available for consumers. An idea was expressed about creating/empowering a better way to deal with instances of true fraud under HO coverage, something which is now not really addressed. This conversation was sparked by a speaker in the audience who owns a water remediation company and who spoke at length about what he perceives as unethical and fraudulent conduct by some restoration companies, including the payment of large referral fees and grossly inflated estimates.

Dale Dobuler from Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin and I are the policyholder lawyers on the panel but we have been joined by others who also help policyholders. Sean Shaw, Ms. Westcott’s predecessor as Insurance Consumer Advocate spoke from the audience and discussed the need for more consumer education and information and shared some of his experiences while serving in the role of Insurance Consumer Advocate. A special member of our group is Mr. Austin Curry. Mr. Curry is the voice of Florida’s seniors as the Executive Director for Elder Care Advocacy of Florida from. Mr. Curry always speaks up and reminds our group a large percentage of Florida’s population is elderly and the need to protect our seniors when it comes to coverage and claims. Here is a photo of Mr. Curry and me snapped at Monday’s meeting.

Once the group has a final report and the drafted bill is released, we will post an update.