Citizens Insurance Advisory Panel’s Final Meeting Looms

Jan 5, 2009

Tampa Tribune–January 2, 2009


A final meeting of a task force Tuesday in Tampa will discuss several major changes for customers of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Florida’s largest property insurer.

Citizens policyholders can reject offers from private insurers that want to assume their policies.

Under recommendations being considered by an 11-member task force charged with returning Citizens to its original role as the state’s insurer of last resort, Citizens policyholders would lose that option. They would be required to accept the takeover offers unless they can find coverage elsewhere.

Nearly 400,000 homeowners policies were taken out of Citizens in 2008. More than 33,000 homeowners, however, rejected takeover offers.

In addition, the task fore will consider a recommendation to eliminate the freeze on Citizens’ rates. Eliminating the rate freeze could open the door to a sizable rate increase for policyholders.

In 2005, Citizens asked state regulators for permission to raise rates 44 percent on average.

Regulators approved a 25.9 percent rate increase for Citizens, and it went into effect in January 2007. A few months later, the increase was removed and Citizens’ rates were frozen through 2009 with legislation backed by Gov. Charlie Crist., a move designed to punish private insurers for not lowering their rates.

Also, state law was changed to allow homeowners to qualify for Citizens coverage as long as the premiums offered by private insurers were 15 percent higher than Citizens’ rates.

That law would be repealed under a recommendation the task force will consider next week.

The task force will meet for the final time Tuesday at Tampa Airport Marriott and will vote on the recommendations. The task force must submit its recommendation to the Florida Legislature by Jan. 31.

Citizens is the state’s largest home insurer, with 1.1 million policies, down from a high of 1.4 million.