1. Letters to the Editor

Thursday's letters: Dinner tabs don't drive Citizens' rates

Published Feb. 27, 2013

Citizens leaders cling to luxury | Feb. 25

Rates, dinners aren't connected

My favorite quote from a Citizens board meeting came when former chair Bruce Douglas addressed a town hall. A policyholder asked if he was a "dollar a year man," referencing compensation for board service. Bruce, serving his third year, didn't miss a beat, replying: "Then someone owes me three bucks."

Board members like me typically take two days away from our families and businesses every month or two for a slate of scheduled meetings. The work is intense, often deep into the evening and through lunch the next day. We do it, unpaid, because we are called to serve by our state leaders. Our reward is a daily torrent of criticism in the Florida press, attempting to tie our dinner tabs to rate hikes.

Citizens is raising rates for a very simple reason that has nothing to do with a menu. It's required by law. The law is crystal clear — the rates must be actuarially sound except for the 10 percent annual cap on changes. If we want lower rates, we have to lower the claims costs, which have exploded in the past few years. That's an uphill battle, with trial lawyer billboards at seemingly every mile marker along U.S. 19 and I-75.

We thank the press for spurring a needed debate on efficiencies at Citizens and will aggressively continue to cut administrative costs. Just don't delude yourselves about why our customers are paying more for insurance.

John Rollins, board member, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., High Springs

Private insurers' sins trump Citizens' Feb. 21, John Romano column

Private insurance burdens

This column reflects common misunderstandings about the operations of government-operated Citizens and the private insurance market in Florida. For example, the column does not recognize that 77 percent of Floridians have put their faith in private insurance companies. Only 23 percent of homeowners have coverage through state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Yet, people who are not policyholders of Citizens are mandated by the state to pay into it because Citizens is not allowed to charge as much as it needs to cover big losses from hurricanes. So the 77 percent with private insurance are, in effect, taxed to make up the shortfall, each and every year since the 2004-05 hurricanes. If you have a private insurance policy, check your declarations page. It spells out the exact dollar amount you are required to pay this year for natural disasters that occurred more than seven years ago.

The column also asserts Citizens is in far better financial shape than private insurers. That's true only if you ignore the other side of the balance sheet. Citizens must have more money in surplus because it has so much more risk to cover. No other Florida insurance company has anywhere close to the 1.3 million policies that Citizens has on its books.

Another misconception is that insurers are engaged in some sort of sleight of hand when they set up subsidiaries or managing agencies. While not all companies have done this, understanding why some choose to do so is important; it is a mechanism that enables them to continue to serve policyholders while inviting continued investment into our state by those who help finance the cost of catastrophes. This is a good thing, a solution and not the problem the column suggests.

Lynne McChristian, Insurance Information Institute, Tampa

Get going on better transit Feb. 24, editorial

Rail must serve needs

While I agree with most of your editorial describing the need for better transit in Pinellas County, I doubt very much that giving PSTA an increase to $120 million will solve many, if any, of our problems.

A light rail system that doesn't serve the principal magnet for Pinellas — the beaches — is doomed to failure just as our present bus system that goes from mall to mall is and has been a failure to any objective observer.

Until PSTA can prove it is capable of managing a transit system that serves the people, it should not get another penny.

Robert Schultz, St. Petersburg

Why? Results | Feb. 24

Exemplary behavior

This kid is up at 4 a.m., works out, goes to school and works? He doesn't drink, smoke, or do drugs and seems to have a loving and supportive family. He has it way more together than I did at 17 (or 27, for that matter). He found something he's passionate about and he works on it every day. Someone call Malcolm Gladwell, not a doctor.

Brian Johnson, Tampa

Not newsworthy

I don't know how anyone could possibly get through the day without knowing about a 17-year-old bodybuilder. Is this your idea of news? Positioning this story on the front page makes a person wonder who makes the decision as to what is news and what is not. What's your next big story? A little girl selling lemonade?

Robert Delimon, Largo

Boil water order out for 560,000 | Feb. 23

Liquid lessons

Water's importance in our lives is, for the most part, invisible, an afterthought — until it goes away, and then its role as something that we can't function normally without becomes very clear. Last weekend's water shortage should serve as a lesson to wake up and admit that the impact of water on all our lives is very real and mismanagement of water is very dangerous, not to mention inconvenient.

Those who laugh at environmentalists for caring too much about fish and not about people need only to look at the events of last weekend, which on a global scale were quite minor, to realize that taking proper care of our water also means taking proper care of our citizens and our economy.

Dr. Karla A. Stevenson, adjunct professor, University of Tampa

Minimum wage

A matter of degree

Any economist will acknowledge that a minimum wage that is too high will have a negative effect on jobs for low-skilled workers. Yet many studies have revealed that the minimum wage laws previously passed have not had that kind of impact.

This discrepancy lies in that the rate of increase in those laws kept the minimum wage very close to what employers were going to pay their low-skilled workers anyway. However, I feel President Barack Obama's goal to increase the minimum wage from its current amount to $9 by 2015 is so aggressive that it will decrease the number of employees that businesses will be able to hire.

Eric Greenbaum, Tampa