Majority of Floridians still see regulation as key to defend against pushy property insurers
Wake up and good morning. It didn't take a brain surgeon to figure out Floridians are dissatisfied with the property insurance market. I've railed about it recently myself when my latest property insurance policy offer (after being dumped by my home insurer of more than 20 years) will exceed the cost of my home mortgage. But a new Quinnipiac poll asking Florida folks some direct questions about their views on insurance does quantify the extreme level of dissatisfaction.
On insurance, 63 percent of Floridians surveyed say property insurance is getting more difficult to obtain in Florida and 3 percent say it is getting easier. One in four voters, 26 percent, say there has been no change. An even larger share, 74 percent, say property insurance is getting more expensive in Florida, as 3 percent say it is getting less expensive and 16 percent say there has been no change.
This frustration with the insurance market for consumers leads 59 percent of voters to call for more government regulation of property insurance in the state, while 29 percent say the state is doing enough. "Whether the new law changes public attitudes about insurance in Florida, only time will tell, but there is no doubt that the electorate sees a crying need for something to make getting and paying for property insurance in Florida less onerous," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. Read more about the poll here.
Covering Florida's property insurance woes is like covering the old Bud Light ads where one group shots "Tastes great!" and the other side bellows "Less filling!" We were not disappointed this time around.
The property insurance industry responded to the Quinnipiac poll results with classic Orwellian style. Consider this statement from Property Casualty Insurers Association of America assistant vice president William Stander:
“Interestingly, according to Quinnipiac, 59 percent of Floridians think the answer is more government regulation. Meanwhile, 100 percent of Floridians already own and operate Citizens, the government-run program that controls 18 percent of the market with more than 1.3 million policies in effect. According to a Florida Senate analysis, Citizens doesn’t have enough money on hand to pay for a major hurricane, and in the meantime, out-of-control sinkhole and other suspect claims are eating up the money Citizens does have. How would more regulation solve those problems?
“The record is clear: government’s intrusion and near-takeover of the property insurance market over the past four years has done nothing to improve the insurance situation of Florida homeowners. That is why the recently enacted SB 408" -- which lets insurance companies seek 15 percent rate hikes -- "is a good first step, because it starts to put a lid on runaway costs and suspect claims, while encouraging private insurers to re-enter the market." Here is his complete statement.
There may be some peripheral good to this legislation. But to Stander's key point, what really will encourage private insurers to re-enter the Florida market? The ability to raise premiums, of course.
It's one thing to say the end game of all this is to have the property insurance industry crow that they are finally healthy and profitable in the Florida market again. It's another thing if new laws give carte blanche to charge mandatory homeowners insurance at such a price that simply bleed Florida homeowners dry or, worse, send a message that the Florida housing market (already a basket case) is one to be avoided like the plague.
To paraphrase Orwell: War is peace. Freedom is slavery. And ever higher property insurance prices in Florida is the will of the free market. As the Quinnipiac poll results show, Floridians are not fools.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times