Friday, July 20, 2018
Politics

State regulator gives Florida property insurers high marks in hurricane 'stress tests'

TALLAHASSEE — Even if Florida gets blasted by four hurricanes in one season as it did a decade ago, 67 Florida-based insurance companies tested by the state have enough of a financial cushion to handle the damage, according to a new report touted by the state's top financial regulator Monday.

Although the report contains little specificity for customers to compare carriers, the state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater praised the results. He said the report, which shows every Florida-based insurer passing every "stress-test" scenario, should inject a new level of confidence in Florida's rebounding insurance industry.

"Consumers deserve to have confidence in their carrier, and we'll continue to share information that shows the processes that are undertaken to test their financial strength," Atwater said in a statement to the media.

The new report comes as state-run Citizens Property Insurance Co. continues to aggressively depopulate itself by pushing customers toward private insurance carriers — often through tactics that Atwater himself has worried are close to "scare tactics." Since 2012, about 1 million customers have been ushered out of Citizens, with another 130,000 slated for removal by the end of the year.

Atwater said he called for new aggressive stress-testing of insurance companies partly because he knew homeowners were being led toward private companies that many may never have heard of and may have questioned if they could sustain a major catastrophe. He said the last thing Floridians need to be anxious about during hurricane season is whether their insurance provider will be there after a major storm.

The new testing ran all 67 insurance companies through storm models that are based on three past historic storm seasons: a 1947 Fort Lauderdale storm, a 1921 Tampa Bay direct hit and 2004's season in which four storms struck Florida, leading to 1.6 million insurance claims.

In the 2004 models, even after having four storms hit, the report says all 67 companies passed — meaning they had enough surplus equal to 10 percent of their liabilities after payouts from all the storms were accounted for.

But the report shows some companies performed significantly better than others. Nine companies emerged from the test with a remaining surplus between 110 percent and 140 percent of what is required. But 30 emerged from the test with more than 500 percent of the required surplus. Which companies performed better or worse is not spelled out.

Consumers can compare the amount of surplus each company has compared with what it must carry under Florida law. That data is available at tbtim.es/qp3.

Contact Jeremy Wallace at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263. Follow @jeremyswallace.

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