Make us your home page
Instagram

Florida insurers' side gets support of agency, lawmaker

Brown

Brown

The same day that a global credit rating agency predicted the Florida homeowners insurance market could collapse if a major hurricane strikes, state Rep. Don Brown continued his crusade to sound alarms over how last year's insurance reforms — which created that market — put the entire state's economy in peril.

Rating agency Fitch Inc.'s position, which mirrors that of the insurance industry and is something lawmakers and other rating agencies have long acknowledged, is that a massive hit would force the state to borrow billions and tack on assessments to all Florida policyholders to help pay claims.

Fitch also took a shot Monday at the smaller, newer insurance companies moving into the state, accusing some of having low financial ratings. And it criticized the "growing adversarial relationship'' between insurers and regulators.

Gov. Charlie Crist would later sharply criticize that assessment.

But it was Brown, a DeFuniak Springs Republican, an insurance agent and chairman of the House Committee on Insurance, who again put a face on the issue. After holding a similar hearing last week questioning state-backed Citizens Property Insurance's ability to pay claims, Brown and his committee spent much of Monday afternoon trying to coax Florida Office of Insurance Regulation chief actuary Bob Lee and Deputy Insurance Commissioner Belinda Miller to admit the state should allow insurers to increase premiums now rather than risk higher assessments in the event of a major storm.

Last year, Florida lawmakers voted to expand the state's catastrophe fund by $12-billion to give insurance companies access to cheaper backup coverage, with the savings passed to policyholders. Brown and Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, were the only two lawmakers who voted against the measure.

At one point, both sides went back and forth for nearly 10 minutes over the definition of the term "actuarially sound."

Rep. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, questioned whether the state is doing enough to tell homeowners that if they don't pay enough for insurance now, they could later be forced to pay assessments that are much higher. "Shouldn't we tell them," Hays asked, "about the corner we've backed them into?"

Insurance regulator Miller said notices of past assessments are listed on premium statements. "And how else can we do it?" she added. "That's the way it (the law) was created."

Of the 14 members of the insurance committee, three are insurance agents (Brown and Reps. Priscilla Taylor and Bryan Nelson), and Ross is a lawyer whose firm represents insurance companies.

Crist, a leading proponent of expanding the state's exposure to risk to lower homeowners rates, had harsh words for the Fitch report.

"I don't know what Fitch is," Crist said. "What I can tell you is that from a consumer point of view, it's better than it was for Florida even a year ago.

"Florida property insurance is about 16 percent cheaper than it was just a year ago," Crist said. "Ironically, 16 new companies are operating in Florida since the reform that happened last January, giving more choice to consumers, more opportunity for lower rates and more coverage for more Floridians.

"So, no disrespect to Fitch," he added, "but what I care about more is Johnny and Susie Floridian than Fitch."

Asked what he thinks of efforts by Brown and others to pass legislation reducing Florida's exposure, Crist said he's had discussions with catastrophe fund officials to do just that.

"But raising rates," Crist said, "is not an option."

Times staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. Tom Zucco can be reached at zucco@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8247.

Florida insurers' side gets support of agency, lawmaker 03/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 27, 2008 3:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    Former Florida Gov. and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their condo in downtown St. Petersburg on the market for $1.5 million. [Courtesy of Rhonda Sanderford]
  2. First WannaCry, now cyberattack Petya spreads from Russia to Britain

    Business

    Computer systems from Russia to Britain were victims of an international cyberattack Tuesday in a hack that bore similarities to a recent one that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide.

    A computer screen cyberattack warning notice reportedly holding computer files to ransom, as part of a massive international cyberattack, at an office in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday.  A new and highly virulent outbreak of malicious data-scrambling software appears to be causing mass disruption across Europe.
[Oleg Reshetnyak via AP]
  3. Higher Social Security payouts help Florida post a big jump in personal income

    Personal Finance

    Personal income grew 1.3 percent in Florida in the first quarter of this year, a four-way tie among all states for second-fastest growth behind Idaho.

  4. Trigaux: Task now is for Water Street Tampa to build an identity

    Business

    Adios, VinikVille! Hello Water Street Tampa.

    An aerial rendering of the $3 billion redevelopment project that Jeff Vinik and Strategic Property Partners plan on 50-plus acres around Amalie Arena.
[Rendering courtesy of Strategic Property Partners]
  5. Unlicensed contractor accused of faking death triggers policy change at Pinellas licensing board

    Local Government

    The unlicensed contractor accused of faking his death to avoid angry homeowners has triggered an immediate change in policy at the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board.

    Last year Glenn and Judith Holland said they paid a contractor thousands of dollars to renovate their future retirement home in Seminole. But when they tried to move in on Dec. 14, they said the home was in shambles and uninhabitable. They sent a text message to contractor Marc Anthony Perez at 12:36 p.m. looking for answers. Fourteen minutes later, they got back this text: "This is Marc's daughter, dad passed away on the 7th of December in a car accident. Sorry." Turns out Perez was still alive. Now the Hollands are suing him in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]