Sen. Fasano: LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Insurance Reform is Still Under Way

Mar 18, 2008

Take action to protect our insurance rates

St. Petersburg Times--Mar. 17, 2008

Insurance reform is still under way

It is ironic that on the day after the Florida Senate’s Select Committee on Property Insurance Accountability presented its legislative recommendations to the Florida Legislature, the referenced letter was published stating that Florida’s insurance problems are no longer in the headlines.

I would beg to differ. Whether or not the issue is on the front page of every paper is of no consequence. The issue itself is still a crisis in Florida and remains to be my No. 1 priority and that of the Florida Senate.

When I was appointed by the Senate president to serve on the Select Committee I did so with wholehearted enthusiasm knowing that immediate solutions to the problems that have plagued our state would be the result.

Now that those ideas have been presented to the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee, I would expect a hearing in the near future to consider the needed proposals put forth by the Select Committee and then bringing the proposal to the Senate floor for approval.

The proposals include giving the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation the authority to impose a daily fine on insurance companies that do not come in compliance with the Insurance Code and follow the law. Additionally, the proposal includes an increase in fines of up to $100,000 per day for insurance companies that engage in unfair methods of competition. Insurance companies must be held accountable and must follow the law.

Further, the Select Committee proposes that the practice of “use and file” be permanently suspended. This practice basically allows an insurer to implement a rate increase and then file for permission to implement the new rate. Insurance companies should not be allowed to raise rates first and then ask for permission later.

Our proposal will include that arbitration be permanently banned as a means in which to settle a rate challenge. Currently, arbitration panels (that are not accountable to anyone) have usurped regulators’ ability in several cases to increase homeowners insurance rates. This process bypasses state regulations. The sole responsibility for setting rates will once again rest with the Office of Insurance Regulation and the commissioner, where it should be. Insurance companies will not have the ability to go around state regulators to increase rates that are unaffordable to the homeowner.

It is my hope that these and other ideas, such as my Senate Bill 400 which will prevent the practice of cherry-picking in Florida, will be heard in committee and eventually arrive at the floor of both the Senate and House for consideration by the full Legislature. We should not allow insurance companies to cherry-pick any longer in Florida.

Have no doubt, rate payers, that the issue of insurance reform is alive and well in Tallahassee, even if the papers don’t always place it on the front page.

Sen. Mike Fasano,
New Port Richey