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Guest column | Mary Partington

State Farm and Florida need mediation

The divorce notice was in the St. Petersburg Times. It was the headline. Soon the mail brought the letter addressed to us. It looked so final, and it was unexpected. State Farm was dropping all the property policies in the state of Florida.

How could this be? Hadn't we been loyal customers for eons? We have never made a claim on our policy in the 15 years we have lived in Florida. Even though we had a reason for a claim, we took care of the damage ourselves, so we would not antagonize State Farm.

Like in all divorces, our first thoughts were of retaliation. They are not going to get any more of our business. We are now free to shop for auto coverage from myriad companies. It is now the time to change the IRA to a Roth IRA and find a new company to handle it. If they don't want us, we know where to go.

What went wrong in this relationship? As in other failed connections there is a lot of blame to go around. In this case, the state of Florida is a contributor to the failure and State Farm's hands are dirty, also. I don't know what we did except file for a discount in our premium, based on the year our house was built.

We are not the parties to the divorce but we are the family of the two parties. In any breakup the family suffers the most as they are unable to put things right. It is up to the state and State Farm to come to an understanding. We may be pleading for the situation to be resolved, but in reality, there is little a policyholder can do.

Another member of the family is the agents who represent State Farm. As captive agents, they are unable to write business for other companies. With angry customers wanting to take all their insurance to another company the agents are unable to keep them as customers.

What a time for this to happen. In the midst of a downturn in the economy and with many households fighting to keep up the payments on their homes, they are now faced with the uncertainty of the cost of the insurance they must keep on their homes.

State Farm argues that the rates be based on the actual amount of exposure to loss that the company has. I understand that, but will the company give us a rebate on the premiums we have paid if the 100-year hurricane never happens?

Gov. Charlie Crist has made remarks that indicate he doesn't care if State Farm leaves. He sounds like a scorned spouse. I think we need to send both parties to mediation. The property insurance problem is a situation just waiting for the perfect storm to hit.

There are so many possible solutions, including a national catastrophe fund. All the states affected by the risk of hurricanes could form a group to share the risk, and the insurance regulation could be national instead of by each state.

I think State Farm should change its slogan, "Like a Good Neighbor State Farm is there." The good neighbors I have are there in times of crisis to help pick up the pieces, even though they do it at a cost.

Mary Partington lives in New Port Richey

State Farm and Florida need mediation 02/08/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 8, 2009 4:13pm]
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