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Florida insurers win in sinkhole coverage change

Insurers win on sinkhole coverage

Although I have a great deal of respect for Rep. John Legg and Sen. Mike Fasano, I have to take issue with their perception of savings for sinkhole coverage. The reduction in cost is because there is a reduction in coverage. If you buy less of anything, it is going to cost less.

Catastrophic loss means that your house must be damaged to the point that it is no longer habitable. But what if a portion of your house is affected by a sinkhole and that room needs repair? There are a number of cases each year where rooms slope, making it impossible to close doors or there are wall and ceiling cracks. With catastrophic loss, your insurance company will not stabilize the ground or repair that room. These repairs are very expensive and most homeowners cannot afford them.

You won't even be able to get a loan to repair your home because it will be labeled as a sinkhole home and its value will plunge. What this legislation has done is allow insurance companies to raise sinkhole coverage rates so high that most people cannot afford them. As an example, my son is buying a modest home in New Port Richey for $61,000. Citizens is charging him about $760 for homeowners coverage with only catastrophic loss. For him to add sinkhole coverage it will cost him another $1,000. That is with a $1,000 deductible.

I asked my agent if we could raise his deductible so he would have some coverage. He can have a 10 percent deductible, which means he would pay the first $11,800 and his premium reduction was $90 for the year.

It is clear that insurance companies do not want to cover sinkholes. They persuaded the Legislature to just make it unaffordable. Now people won't have it and the insurance companies win again. But, that is what happens when you have insurance companies pumping billions into elections each year.

Ronnie H. Holt, New Port Richey

Information still needed on details

Thank you Rep. John Legg, Sen. Mike Fasano, Commissioner Michael Cox, the Times, and staff writer Jodie Tillman. Any measures taken to help inform the citizens of the sinkhole capital of the U.S. is greatly appreciated.

The many variables that go into determining the coverage and cost of home insurance in Pasco and Hernando counties are confusing to the average person. The changes that have occurred in the last few years, good and bad, have not made it any easier to understand, although needed. For example:

• It should be noted that Rep. Legg is discussing change to private insurance carriers, not Citizens, which already has this coverage.

• How will the private carriers determine what is catastrophic and what is cosmetic? (Watch out for anything arbitrary.)

• Will the definition of catastrophic vary from Citizens and from carrier to carrier?

• Will catastrophic and cosmetic be determined by the insurance underwriters on a case-by-case basis?

• What parameters of catastrophic and cosmetic will the private carriers use to differentiate between catastrophic and cosmetic? Will it be physical damage or cost, or both?

• Will the policyholder have to pay for cosmetic, even though they existed previous to the damage, which the insurance carrier maintains are not catastrophic?

There are other questions to be asked and the average person may or may not know to ask them. They cannot be answered with "Well, they will be the same as Citizens." Tell us all, private companies and Citizens, what that is. Further, we ask that our legislators sponsor legislation that will cover what could be consider the small stuff. For example, a $25,000 sinkhole to the average person without the extra sinkhole coverage would not be cosmetic. How will the private carriers view it?

Lowell and Donetta Peiffer, Port Richey

Utilities increases unconscionable

Utilities are way out of hand. I just received a bill from Aloha Utilities for garbage and a street light fee. So once again our local representatives have pulled the trash over our eyes.

Not only did our water bill increase, but it didn't even cover trash pickup in our areas. If this county wanted to wash its hands of Aloha Utilities, why wasn't a bid process generated for us to get the best possible contract for services not provided by FGUA? I'm starting to realize that our local and state officials don't care one bit for their residents.

Once again, where do the elected official think the residents of this county are getting more money from? My paycheck doesn't increase every time these officials come up with their bright ideas. When is this type of business practice going to stop? When are the residents of Pasco going to say enough is enough?

Edward Dooley, New Port Richey

Don't confuse the two Chinseguts

Regarding a recent letter that confused one Chinsegut facility for another and the letter writer's misplaced concern that the Chinsegut Nature Center might close: There is no danger of that.

The common thread between the facilities is the name "Chinsegut." There is the Chinsegut Hill Manor House. Then there is the Chinsegut Nature Center, which is in the Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area. All are near Brooksville, in Hernando County.

However, the connection stops there. While all three share the history of that given name, they serve different purposes and have different owner/operators.

People confuse one for the other, as happened in a June 3 letter to the editor. The letter, responding to a recent column in the St. Petersburg Times titled "Friends of Chinsegut Hill worry for historic Manor House's future," lamented what might happen to the "majestic old manor house" when the University of South Florida shuts it down July 1 because leasing it is a money-losing proposition at $100,000 a year.

The letter writer was correct in that respect, but not when she said, "I hope there is no death knell for the glorious nature/retreat center that Chinsegut is." She went on to describe not the majestically beautiful manor grounds that perch on the southern end of the Brooksville Ridge and overlook the lowlands to the south, but instead the location of the rustic nature center and wildlife and environmental area, which are in a different although nearby location outside of Brooksville.

Besides, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission owns and manages the Chinsegut Nature Center. The FWC is committed to keeping its educational nature center open.

Yes, the names are confusing, but Chinsegut Nature Center will remain in the business of educating the public about and engaging it in Florida's upland and wetland wildlife.

The FWC also sincerely hopes that USF's Manor House property, used for conferences, retreats and weddings, will continue to be a historic resource for the region.

Our 408-acre Chinsegut Nature Center will continue to offer its Pioneer Day, Chinsegut Run and Fun Walk, Chinsegut Bird and Wildlife Festival and Reptile/Amphibian Festival. Throughout the year, the FWC offers scores of other programs for the public, schoolchildren and teachers.

Come visit our butterfly garden and trail and our 450-acre Big Pine Tract, the second-largest contiguous tract of old-growth longleaf pine in Florida.

Kristin Wood, director, Chinsegut Nature Center

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Florida insurers win in sinkhole coverage change 06/09/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 9, 2009 6:46pm]
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