Monday, May 21, 2018
Editorials

Florida needs bolder insurance fixes

Another hurricane season starts today, and so do the annual rituals. Floridians check their hurricane supplies and evacuation zones. The governor and state emergency officials offer assurances that they are prepared to respond to a major storm. And legislators and the insurance industry spin the fantasy that the solution to Florida's property insurance crisis is free market competition and drastically higher premiums.

It's been six years since Florida has been hit by a hurricane. It's been seven years since the devastating series of hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 ripped through the state. Yet the state still has not come up with a creative way to make property insurance more available and affordable. In fact, the goal appears to be to gouge homeowners with state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. on the faulty premise that somehow the private market will start functioning again. It is terribly unfair to homeowners already struggling to make ends meet, and it jeopardizes the recovery of the state's fragile housing market.

In fact, Citizens is in better financial shape heading into this hurricane season than it has been in the past. It has roughly $6 billion in available cash and the capability to pay about $11 billion in hurricane claims. It could borrow additional money and have enough to cover claims for a Hurricane Andrew-type storm, although assessments would be required afterward. That's significant progress for Citizens, which remains the largest property insurer in the state with more than 1.4 million policies.

Yet Citizens continues to seek to skirt state law that limits annual premium increases to 10 percent. It is considering charging significantly higher premiums for new customers, and it is insisting on higher levels of replacement costs for many homeowners. It also is reinspecting more than 200,000 homes to see if discounts for hurricane hardening efforts such as roof tie-downs and storm shutters are warranted. Actual fraud should be rooted out, but it is curious that more than seven out of 10 homes inspected have seen premiums increase and Citizens stands to take in more than $107 million in additional premiums.

The Citizens board meets in Tampa today to hear ideas about reducing its number of policies. It's a safe bet private insurers will argue that Citizens premiums should be even higher so the private market can better compete. But there is a limit to how much homeowners can bear, and some private insurers never will re-enter the state at any price.

Bolder ideas should be on the table, including the creation of a national catastrophe fund. Florida also should study a St. Petersburg group's proposal to establish a state fund that collects windstorm premiums in return for the private market covering everything else and assuming all Citizens policyholders.

In the meantime, prepare for another hurricane season and hope Florida's luck holds out.

Comments
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18