If there is one hot topic in Florida right now, it involves Citizens Property Insurance Corporation and the actions it is taking concerning future insurance coverage for Floridians. At the Citizens Board of Directors meeting earlier this week, board members voted in favor of less insurance coverage while also approving higher deductibles. Sun-Sentinel Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Julie Patel, reported on the outcome of the voting in her article, “Citizens insurance panel approves higher deductibles, less coverage.”
People’s Trust Ranks Number 1 for complaints…again.
In Florida, the Office of Insurance Regulation is required by Florida Statute §624.313 to publish statistics and ratios on the complaints consumers submit against insurance companies. The OIR’s primary responsibility is regulation, compliance, and enforcement of statutes relating to the business of insurance and the monitoring of industry markets. The OIR must annually publish several categories of information about the insurance companies doing business in Florida.
Floridians are still awaiting a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court in Jeffery H. Atwater v. Frederick W. Kortum. The Court will decide whether the “48 hour rule,” the statute that bars public adjusters from soliciting policyholders until 48 hours after the loss, is a violation of commercial free speech under Article I, § 4, of the Florida Constitution.
Julie Patel of the Sun-Sentinel continues her dedicated investigative reporting series looking into insurance issues in her recent article, Expect low and slow claims payments if your insurer folds.
Last week, Julie Patel, of the Sun-Sentinel, continued her investigative reporting into insurance adjuster complaints in Florida. In the article, State seldom cracks down on insurance companies and their adjusters, Patel gives readers an inside look on the discrepancies between complaints against insurance companies and their adjusters and complaints against public insurance adjusters. The complaints discussed in the article were filed online with the Florida Department of Financial Services, which investigates the complaints.
Citizens Property Insurance Corporation was created by the Florida legislature. Generally, Citizens’ goal is to pay claims from funds acquired through insurance premiums and other investments, but sometimes this is not possible. According to Fla. Stat. § 627.351(6), if Citizens’ funds for paying claims are depleted by a hurricane or other catastrophic loss, Citizens may impose surcharges and other assessments on Citizens’ policyholders, as well as other Florida insurance companies and policyholders to make up for deficits in Citizens’ reserves. To help explain its surcharge and assessment powers, Citizens has provided a brief summary of these powers on its website.
You can tell it is not an election year when consumers lose valuable rights because politicians, who promised to serve them, vote against consumer interests. Yesterday, I wrote a post, Good Guys Prevail Over Insurance Lobby, about a pro-consumer victory in the Florida House of Representatives. The loss was in the Florida Senate, where the insurance industry is supported by many key Florida Senators.
The Florida Senate must have taken a page from Insurance Company Declares War on Public Adjusters, as a recently filed Senate Bill SB 1714 prevents Citizens policyholders from hiring public adjusters. Since Citizens claims it is already immune from damages it causes while breaching good faith claims duties, policyholders would certainly lose if this bill becomes law. It would be easier for Citizens to reduce its claims costs by taking advantage of its policyholders after losses are suffered.
Julie Patel, of the Sun-Sentinel, does a fantastic job reporting on insurance issues. Her latest piece on sinkholes, Sinkhole Claims Push up Insurance Premiums in Florida, suggests that the root cause of the problem is the geology underneath Florida structures. She reported:
Should Florida create a fourth state-run Insurance entity to cover sinkhole losses? This question was recently reported on by Julie Patel of the Sun-Sentinel. The question was raised during an Office of Insurance Regulation symposium held in Orlando. The attendees were primarily those in the insurance industry—insurance consumers are usually at work during the day.