Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Insurers ruffled, regulators pleased by judges' rulings

TALLAHASSEE — Florida insurance regulators' tough stance on insurance rates won a symbolic stamp of approval this week that has left the insurance industry reeling.

Two state administrative law judges have upheld Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty's refusal under a 2007 law to grant rate hikes to Florida Farm Bureau and Hartford Insurance.

"The office is pleased with the rulings, and we feel strongly that these supportive decisions will help us in our endeavors to protect Florida consumers from unwarranted rate increases," said Edward Domansky, spokesman for the Office of Insurance Regulation.

For years, insurers were able to set their own rates and later ask for regulators' permission. If insurers didn't like regulators' decisions, they could lodge an appeal by going through a fairly quick mediation process.

But among the insurance reforms last year, the Legislature made it tougher for property insurers to raise rates and to appeal regulators' decisions. Now, insurers' recourse is what used to be their last resort: a review by a Division of Administrative Hearing judge — a lengthy, costly process.

In the wake of the new insurance laws, Florida Farm Bureau and Hartford Insurance were the first companies to officially go through that appeal process following the state's rejection of rate requests last year.

They're also the first two companies to lose.

A judge ruled against Hartford on March 28, and another ruled against Florida Farm Bureau on Tuesday. McCarty still has to sign off on the decisions, but he's expected to follow the judges' orders that the rate hikes aren't deserved.

In both cases, the companies had initially filed for substantial rate decreases, then later filed for increases, canceling out most or all of the savings to homeowners. The net result of the two filings was a smaller decrease in the case of Florida Farm Bureau and an increase in the case of Hartford.

Florida Farm Bureau asked for a net rate decrease of 1.6 percent on 140,000 homeowners policies, including about 10,000 in the Tampa Bay area.

Hartford proposed a net increase of 0.4 percent to 2.8 percent on homeowners policies affecting 92,000 homes and increases of 28 to 54 percent on dwelling and fire policies affecting 2,550 homes.

If McCarty signs off on the judges' recommendations, the insurers' only recourse is to file an appeal with Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal.

"The companies have to decide whether to appeal or to go back to OIR and try to work out something," said Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council. "I honestly don't know what the companies are going to do."

Insurers have taken note. They said they hope the rulings signal to the Legislature that more dramatic measures aren't necessary.

"These two victories in the DOAH (Division of Administrative Hearing) proceedings definitely prove that OIR does not need the punitive regulatory provisions contained in Sen. Jeff Atwater's bill," said Mark Delegal, a lobbyist for State Farm.

Insurers ruffled, regulators pleased by judges' rulings 04/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 2:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA


    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  2. St. Petersburg man shot in arm during home invasion robbery


    ST. PETERSBURG — One man was arrested on charges he shot another man in the arm while attempting to rob a home in what St. Petersburg police are calling a drug-related incident.

    John Alam, 25, faces charges of home invasion robbery, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon after deputies said he tried to rob a home Wednesday morning and ended up shooting someone. [Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Bob Buckhorn, a mayor who knows what he wants, surveys constituents on what they want


    TAMPA — Focus has not been a problem — or really, even a question — during the six-plus years that Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been in office.

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn keeps a digital countdown clock in his office showing the days, hours. minutes and seconds until he is term-limited out of office on April 1, 2019. As of Wednesday, he had 584 days to go. [City of Tampa]
  4. WATCH: Heroic Hooters manager helps two sheriff's deputies subdue unruly customer


    BRANDON — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office praised a heroic Hooters Restaurant manager Wednesday for coming to the aid of two deputies struggling to subdue an unruly customer.

    It took two deputies and a Hooter's manager to get control of Ashton B. Toney after he threatened to kill an employee who refused to serve him alcohol at a Hooter's in Brandon, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office reported.
[Booking photo from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]