Insurer to drop 50,000 homes - July 21
Are there any defenders of private property insurance providers left in our state besides the elected officials who are the recipients of insurers' political contributions? The latest news is that State Farm is dropping 50,000 policies for properties too close to the coasts while maintaining lower-risk, inland policies, and that the Farm Bureau Insurance Co. "invested" the savings it received from the state reinsurance program, instead of reducing rates for its customers, and then asked for a 30 percent rate increase.
Is there any doubt left as to private insurers' motives? They want to sell a product that is based on risk, profit handsomely, but take no risk. What a business model!
Now that the insurance companies have deceived our governor and Legislature for two years in a row by not fulfilling their end of deals to increase availability of private insurance and decrease rates, it's time to get serious if we want our state's economy to survive.
What happened to the 25 percent rate decreases that turned, for many of us, into 50 percent rate increases? What happened to banning pup companies? What happened to restricting insurance companies from profitable auto coverage if they won't write property insurance at reasonable rates? Let's allow Citizens to write all lines of profitable insurance, such as liability and rent reimbursement, for all types of property throughout the state.
No more excuses! Even the greatest defenders of private enterprise, including me, cannot defend an industry that delivers a vital service with no free market, minimal competition if any, disregard for the needs of its customers, and a greed for profit that is insatiable.
Martin Altner, Clearwater
On the fringe of the home slump - July 22
We're losing to N.C. and Tennessee
I operate the largest Century 21 team in Florida. I work and live in the Cape Coral/Fort Myers area. I believe that we have just begun to see the effects of the housing slump. We have an increasing number of short sales and looming foreclosures that will drive prices down further in the coming months.
I have watched as the media outlets have reported on the Save Our Homes amendment and the high taxes that have resulted for snowbirds, second-home owners and businesses. I have heard virtually nothing regarding the lack of demand for homes and the lowering of property values as a result. We have voted on the SOH amendment and saved long-term residents a few thousand dollars a year. At the same time, the severe lack of demand from second-home owners and the baby boomers has driven down the value of those homesteaded houses by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Legislature, along with Gov. Charlie Crist, attempted to correct the problem, but it appears that they again have pandered to the voters and taken the easy way out. It is very appealing to lower the taxes for full-time residents, but unless we can attract the new residents and enable businesses to pay a fair property tax, we will rewrite the future of Florida. We have a fence at our northern border that says: "Do not move here. You are not welcome."
We have a chance to vote in January, but I think the real voting needs to be for legislators who truly understand how to create a fair tax structure that encourages people to replace those of us who are leaving the state for more tax-friendly areas. North Carolina and Tennessee are the winners and Florida and its residents are the losers.
Steve Koffman, Cape Coral
No. 1 spot to buy a house? Try here - July 25
Let's focus on the positives
Hurrah! It's about time we get some positive press about our real estate market. Many of us have lived in Florida through several up and down markets, but with all the negative press, it affects how prospective buyers think. It is most definitely a buyer's market with the amount of inventory we have. So let's keep our focus on positive impact press.
Debbie Varga, St. Petersburg
An hour of expertise, $4,000, column - July 21
Judge's ruling based on many factors
Scott Barancik's column states it appears the basis for Judge James Moody Jr.'s sentence of my client, Pat Stewart, was the testimony of psychiatrist Michael Sheehan that an inappropriate prescription of Paxil caused Stewart's manic embezzlements. Judge Moody based his decision not merely on Dr. Sheehan's testimony, but also on these numerous additional sources that corroborated Dr. Sheehan:
- A report from forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Danzier.
- A report from Dr. David Sheehan, Stewart's treating psychiatrist.
- Stewart's medical and prescription records.
- Two treatises on bipolar disorder.
- A National Institute of Mental Health paper.
- The American Psychiatric Association's Practice Guidelines.
- A warning letter issued by the manufacturer of Paxil.
- Extensive testimony from Stewart's family, neighbors and co-workers about his manic behavior after he began taking Paxil.
Moreover, none of the experts involved in the Pat Stewart case charged anything close to $4,000 per hour.
Kevin Darken, Tampa
Cohen, Jayson & Foster, P.A.
$100-a-barrel oil - July 24
It's time to shake our dependence
The pervasive oil and gas culture cannot last. World society is on an unsustainable course. Accessible reserves of oil and natural gas will be pretty well depleted within a few decades. America must become energy independent. As it is now, Americans cling to and defend an ingrained fuel habit. We must develop America's alternative sources of fuel from coal and oil shale, from plants for gasohol, from unconventional gas sources, the sun, etc. We need more fuel-efficient cars, buses and hybrids. We need mass-produced electric cars and lawn mowers. Put renewable sources like solar, wind and water in the U.S. energy mix.
Robert Fleming, St. Petersburg
When life brings surprises, Paycheck to paycheck series July 21
There's nowhere affordable to go
I moved here in 1999 to take care of aging parents. Both are now deceased. It took two part-time jobs to live on and give myself the flexibility to care for them. I now work 52 hours per week and am living off my credit cards, personal line of credit and the little bit I got from my dad's estate. I wanted to use the $10,000 to maybe buy a condo, or set up a little savings for my retirement, if I ever get to do that. I need a knee replacement I can't afford, I have diabetes caused mostly by stress-related problems. I also have had a stent put into one of my arteries. I have no benefits at either of my jobs, although they have tried to give me what they can even though I am, as a part-timer, not entitled to anything. I must move shortly due to the rent being raised and I don't know where I can live. There is nowhere to live here that I can afford and that would be safe.
I am thinking I will have to move north, but I will miss the beach and friends I have made here, not to mention the graves of my mom and dad. I don't know what to do at this point. No one wants to hire a 59-year-old without any relevant skills in today's market. I can't afford school given both the time and money it would require. Florida isn't a paradise to me.
Joan Kornecky, Clearwater
About that no-fault law, expect trouble - July 18
Sink shows leadership on insurance
Bravo to Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink for recognizing the importance of saving PIP (personal injury protection) and encouraging Florida's leaders to do the same. Floridians will feel devastating effects if no-fault auto insurance is allowed to sunset, including an increase in health insurance premiums, lack of care for the uninsured and more red tape for our legal system.
Though Sink highlights the issue of considerable fraud, it isn't as bad as some have made it out to be. In 2005, the latest statistical year available from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 395,696 drivers involved in accidents. That same year, there were 3,125 suspected PIP-fraud tips reported. That means that fewer than 1 percent of accidents sparked a PIP fraud accusation and a whopping 0.06 percent of all accidents resulted in an actual PIP fraud conviction.
I'm glad to see Florida has at least one leader courageous enough to state the truth. Floridians should stand behind Sink in encouraging Gov. Charlie Crist, Senate President Ken Pruitt and House Speaker Marco Rubio to address PIP during a special session.
Cris Boyar, Margate
Association of Independent Healthcare Providers
Attorney, Boyar & Freeman