EDITORIAL: Latest property-insurance reforms could provide some relief

May 19, 2008

Orlando Sentinel--May 17, 2008

It’s risky business getting too enthusiastic about the state’s efforts to rein in the property insurance industry. Last year’s reforms, remember, fell far short of the promised 24 percent reduction in premiums for policy holders.

Still, the Legislature in this year’s session mothballed an arbitration panel notorious for approving industry rate requests after regulators rejected them. It’s making companies substitute their mysterious rate-setting models for state-approved methods. And it’s doubling penalties for insurers who intentionally violate state insurance rules to $40,000.

Customers knocked around by their insurers also can now, at least in some cases, hit back. They can sue companies that don’t pay undisputed parts of claims within 90 days of deciding the amount of the payment. And if companies are going to drop their policy holders, they’ve first got to give them a half-year’s notice.

The courts, too, are now backing the state’s insurance regulators, who’d kept Allstate from writing new policies because the company wasn’t fully divulging how it sets rates. Regulators lifted that ban Friday after Allstate finally submitted documents the regulators had subpoenaed.

Are the reforms enough to further curb industry abuses? Perhaps. Hopefully.

Are they enough to get policy holders that long-ago promised 24 percent drop in their rates? Enough for them to get enthusiastic?

Given the results of last year’s reforms, let’s say enough to be encouraged.