Citizens Property Insurance's much-awaited clearinghouse to keep homeowners policies in the private market has a few more weeks to troubleshoot for potential problems. Originally slated for Jan. 1, the website's launch date is now scheduled for Jan. 27.
Citizens exec Steve Bitar had a sense of humor about the delay. He alluded to other recent problematic government website launches, without naming names. Both the launch of the federal Affordable Care Act site and Florida's new unemployment benefits site were plagued by problems that kept consumers from signing up.
"You know what? We don't want egg on our face," said Bitar, Citizens' vice president of consumer and agent services. Farmington, Conn.-based Bolt Solutions was awarded a 10-year contract worth up to $45 million to create and maintain the clearinghouse.
Under the clearinghouse, which was authorized by the state legislature last year, insurance agents are required to check out other private insurance options with comparable coverage to Citizens before placing a homeowner with the state-run insurer of last resort.
State leaders have long been striving to shrink Citizens for multiple reasons, including the fact all insured Floridians can be assessed if Citizens is hammered by major hurricanes and unable to pay its claims.
Citizens is starting the clearinghouse with four private insurers but anticipates 20 companies will eventually be on board.
Between the clearinghouse and an ongoing push to place Citizens policies back in the private marketplace, Citizens expects to rid itself of another 100,000 policies by year-end, getting down to about 900,000 policies, CEO Barry Gilway said.