Scores ready to protest Citizens’ sinkhole rate hike

Sep 7, 2011

The following article was published in Hernando Today on September 7, 2011:

Scores ready to protect Citizens sinkhole rate hike

By Michael D. Bates

More than 150 people have signed up for a free bus ride to Tampa next week to protest Citizens Property Insurance Corp.’s massive rate hike before the Office of Insurance Regulation.

And there’s room for more.

State Senator Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said he can arrange to have more than the three buses already heading to Tampa on Tuesday.

“Everyone needs to speak out loudly to oppose these unaffordable rate increases that Citizens is asking for,” Fasano said. “If these rates are approved, it will have a devastating effect on Hernando County’s housing and the economy as a whole.”

Rose Rocco, spearheading local efforts to thwart Citizens’ plans, said a rate hike up to 471 percent for some residents is unconscionable and would force people to drop sinkhole coverage, she said.

“This kind of an increase for Hernando County is going to be devastating economically,” Rocco said. “If (residents) can’t carry sinkhole insurance, they will wind up in foreclosure because most mortgage companies demand (it).”

Rocco is asking people who have signed up for Tuesday’s event to arrive at 1:30 p.m. at the parking lot of the Weeki Wachee Village shopping center at the corner of U.S. 19 and State Road 50.

The buses will leave at 2 p.m. and stop at two locations in Pasco County to pick up more people.

Many plan to drive their own vehicles to Tampa.

The hearing is from 4-8 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 South Franklin Street and is the final opportunity for the public to weigh in on the rate increase application. The Office of Insurance Regulation will be make its decision on the potential premium hikes in the days immediately following the hearing.

For people who live in coastal Hernando County, rates would go up 323 percent, from $1,356 to $5,734.

The remainder of the county will see an average 471 percent increase, from $1,084 to $6,192.

Statewide, sinkhole rates under the proposed rate hike would increase an average 429 percent statewide. Orange County would see the biggest increase at 2,226 percent.

Fasano said people have until noon Friday to reserve a seat on one of the buses. For more information, call his office at (727) 848-5885.

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