Citizens insurance rates may hold steady

May 1, 2008

Florida Today--May 1, 2008


TALLAHASSEE — Rates for the state’s largest property insurer could remain the same at least another year, but leaves all insured Floridians open to charges if a hurricane hits.

After nearly two hours of debate, the House voted 117-0 shortly before midnight Wednesday for a bill that includes a one-year extension of the freeze on state-run Citizen’s Property Insurance rates.

The bill also sets more consumer-friendly rules for insurance companies to pay claims on time and reduces by $3 billion the amount of cheap backup coverage the state will sell to private companies to protect them from big hurricane losses.

For Citizens’ customers, it provides another year of frozen rates.

“There is one thing worse than having more than you want to pay for insurance. That’s the company going bankrupt when it’s time to pay your claim,” said Rep. Don Brown, R-DeFuniak Springs. “It increases the likelihood that not only Citizens policy holders will be assessed but every kind of policy holder will be assessed.”

If Citizens doesn’t have enough to pay claims its losses are made up with charges to all insurance customers in the state.

Rep. Priscilla Taylor, D-West Palm Beach, supported an amendment to keep rates for Citizens customers frozen another two years, which failed before the final vote.

“We are in a recession. We have people who cannot pay their mortgages, much less their insurance,” she said.

The latest effort also asks for more transparency in how companies create their policies and how much profit they make.