Citizens Property Insurance has shrunk below 1 million policies for the first time since 2006, a milestone indicating that a major effort to push policies toward private insurers is working.
After the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005, the state-run insurer of last resort had become insurer of first resort for many homeowners who were unable to find coverage on the open market.
Citizens' growth was troubling because, under state law, all Floridians can be assessed if Citizens is unable to pay all its claims following a major hurricane. Citizens CEO Barry Gilway said that possible assessments from a 1-in-100 year storm have been reduced from a high of nearly $12 billion to less than $4 billion.
Eight hurricane-free years have helped, both in bringing new insurers into play and reducing the cost that insurers pay for an added layer of coverage called reinsurance.
Policy counts released Monday show Citizens with 942,321 policies in force, down 36 percent from a high of nearly 1.48 million policies in October 2012.
But that shrunken policy count has come at a cost. Homeowners have balked that Citizens has reduced what it covers, made it more difficult to get discounts and pushed them toward accepting coverage by some untested Florida-based private insurers.