Blog: Miami-Dade lawmakers, mayor say they worry about their own property-insurance coverage with Citizens Property Insurance

Mar 19, 2012

The following article was published in the Miami Herald on March 19, 2012:

Miami-Dade lawmakers, mayor:  We worry about our own property insurance coverage with Citizens

By Patricia Mazzei

When it comes to property insurance, at least, Miami-Dade politicians appear to have similar worries to their constituents.

County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s annual Citizens Insurance deductible is about $5,000 for his Coconut Grove home. For state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Republican who lives nearby, it’s only slightly lower. In the Roads neighborhood of Miami, Rep. Luis Garcia’s is higher — for a smaller house.

And in Miami Gardens, Rep. Barbara Watson’s insurance carrier has moved out of the county altogether — leaving her to shop around for new, more expensive coverage.

“It has tripled,” Watson, a Democrat, said of the estimates she has received. “Then my deductible is over $20,000. That’s crazy.”

The elected officials shared their property-insurance woes at an informal gathering at County Hall Monday, where the mayor met with 11 Florida House members of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation who provided him with an update on their efforts in Tallahassee during the session that ended earlier this month. (The county’s senators are back in the state capital, working on a new draft of their redistricting maps.)

Among the delegation’s achievements: helping to kill proposed legislation that would have allowed unregulated, out-of-state insurers to take over some policies covered by Citizens.

The proposal “could have resulted in an increase in insurance costs for all of our constituents,” said Lopez-Cantera, the delegation chairman. The bipartisan effort to derail the legislation, he told Gimenez, was “a big victory for this community.”

The Legislature will have to do something about Citizens soon, said Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, a Miami Republican: “If we are hit by a hurricane, Citizens cannot sustain us.”

That triggered the discussion about deductibles, with Gimenez noting that many homeowners covered by Citizens have a hard time understanding how the state insurer of last resort can be in such fragile financial shape when it sets such high payment thresholds for policyholders.

“It’s going to be unaffordable to live here in Miami-Dade County,” Gimenez said.

The mayor thanked lawmakers for uniting to work for the county, saying Miami-Dade “came out pretty well” from the session (except for state Medicaid dollars the county will have to send the state from Miami-Dade’s general fund). 

“We’re going to continue to work together,” vowed Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, a Hialeah Republican.

The group tossed out ideas for how to get Miami-Dade to wield more power in the state Capitol, including working more closely with Broward and Palm Beach lawmakers who often have similar issues relevant to large, urban counties. But folks like Gonzalez and Garcia, a Democrat, noted that the three counties have joined forces together in the past, with little success.

The lawmakers’ first order of business is to get re-elected. Indeed, the gathering Monday featured legislators who will likely be running against each other: Logan against fellow Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, Gonzalez against Hialeah Republican Rep. Jose Oliva, and Watson against fellow Democratic Rep. Daphne Campbell of Miami.

Then, they will have to pick a new chairman. Lopez-Cantera is term-limited — a fact his colleagues repeatedly noted as they took turns thanking him.

“I’m going to miss him,” Campbell said. “He helped me a lot with funding in my community.”

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