Editorial: Citizens Property Insurance policyholders worried about their own expenses

Jan 27, 2013

The following article was published in The Palm Beach Post on January 27, 2013:

Editorial:  Citizens policyholders worried about their own expenses

By Randy Schultz


Gov. Rick Scott claimed credit this month when the state’s inspector general criticized excessive travel and entertainment expenses by executives and board members of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. The governor had asked for the report in September, after a Miami Herald story detailed the excesses.

But Gov. Scott, like the Florida Legislature, seems much less concerned about the far more serious expenses regarding the state-run insurer. That would be the expenses to Citizens policyholders from the ongoing attempt to make Citizens hurricane coverage unaffordable, even though state law requires Citizens policies to be “affordable,” since for customers Citizens is often the only option.

Supposedly, Citizens can’t raise coverage costs more than 10 percent each year, but Citizens has been reinspecting homes and raising standards for discounts. Homeowners who had paid less because they had strengthened their homes are hearing that they must make new improvements that can cost more than the savings. Those policy increases aren’t covered by the 10 percent annual limit.

Even the 10 percent cap may not stick. A legislative committee just heard a proposal that would raise the limit to 13 percent. As usual, a Central Florida insurance agent — Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka — is chairman of the House Insurance Subcommittee. Most of Citizens’ high-risk policyholders live in South Florida. The committee’s vice-chairman is Palm Beach County’s Bill Hager, but he favors squeezing Citizens policyholders.

The inspector general’s report, covering the first eight months of last year, restated some of what the Herald reported. On a trip to Bermuda to meet with reinsurers, for example, Citizens’ chief financial officer stayed in a $459-per-night room and upgraded to a $633 room. The report noted that Citizens had “insufficient internal controls” to monitor expenses. New President Barry Gilway says he has made changes. But are there sufficient external controls to keep Citizens from gouging Floridians in the name of shedding policies?

Randy Schultz

View the original article here:  http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/editorial-citizens-policyholders-worried-about-the/nT7FD/