South Florida SunSentinel: Senators narrowly reject insurance watchdog’s proposal
Mar 5, 2010
The South Florida SunSentinel published this article on March 5, 2010.
The Florida Senate’s insurance committee narrowly struck down a proposal from Insurance Consumer Advocate Sean Shaw this week that would allow his office to participate in insurance rate hearings.
It would specifically give his office access to confidential documents involved in calculating rates so it can provide its own analysis and recommendations on behalf of consumers — much like the Office of Public Counsel does for utility rate hearings.
Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, proposed adding the provision to a broad property insurance measure proposed by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, but withdrew saying legislators could discuss the idea later.
Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, proposed the provision instead. He said if lawmakers postpone the provision, they should delay the main bill too or approve the provision now because the committee can’t add it later if the bill is passed.
Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, agreed: “Now is the time to make sure this rides on the train.”
“You will find many areas of this bill that are anti-consumer and pro-insurance company,” Fasano said. “Could we not put something in there to protect the consumer…who is going to wind up paying those rates?
The panel struck down the idea by a 5 to 4 vote. Voting for it were Fasano, Storms, Joe Negron, R-Jupiter, and Alex Villalobos, R-Miami. Voting against it were Bennett, Richter, Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, and Jeremy Ring, D-Margate.
Storms successfully proposed removing a provision in Richter’s bill that would allow insurers to refuse replacement coverage for roofs older than 20 years. The bill was postponed because the committee did not finish debating Storms’ idea to remove a provision from Richter’s bill that would allow insurers to hold back part of a claim until the homeowner actually makes the repairs needed.
Representatives from the American Insurance Association and a lobbyist for several insurance companies said some homeowners file claims and instead of using all the money to make repairs, they pocket most of it.
Storms said she wants to help fight fraud but also wants to ensure consumers get paid for damages. “That’s what insurance is for,” she said. “I was an elected official in time of the hurricanes and I saw what people went through so that’s what I’m trying to address.”