A Trio of Insurance Bills Await Action as Florida Session Nears End

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers might wonder if they're on a merry-go-round when it comes getting a handle on insurance costs in the state, whether for cars or homes. For the better part of a couple decades, they've gone round and round on the issue while their constituents pay higher and higher premiums.

This year appears to be no different with three major insurance bills awaiting action in the final four days of the 2012 legislative session, including one that is a priority of Gov. Rick Scott.

"They're all equally important," said Sen. Garrett Richter, a Naples Republican who chairs the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. "We have to address the risk to Florida ... on multiple fronts."

Things got off to a rough start Monday when the Senate's attempt to depopulate the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. by allowing out-of-state, unregulated insurers to pick off some of its customers ran into a whirlwind of amendments aimed at protecting consumers, potentially derailing that bill (HB 245).

Lawmakers spent two hours on Richter's bill, arguing much of that time over an amendment by Sen. Thad Altman that gives CPIC customers an opportunity to opt in with a new company — in this case, largely unregulated insurers from outside Florida known as surplus line carriers.

Altman's amendment prevailed on a 21-18 vote and also requires that consumers receive a detailed written explanation in the difference between companies.

"That was probably the most pro-consumer amendment that could've been adopted," said Sen. Mike Fasano, a Republican maverick from New Port Richey who has led the charge to defeat the bill in its original form.  "We're all for depopulating Citizens, but you don't depopulate by deceiving the rate payers."

Richter argued the changes to his bill will keep those outside companies from coming into Florida.

"It kills the intent of the legislation," Richter said.

"It's an up and down vote," Senate President Mike Haridopolos said after Monday's somewhat turbulent session. "It's a close vote. Some people might change their minds."

The Legislature created Citizens Property Insurance Corp. a decade ago with the intent of providing an affordable, last-resort option for consumers left in the lurch when private carriers began pulling back from Florida's hurricane-threatened marketplace. Now they're desperate to shrink Citizens, which has rocketed from a last option to the state's largest property insurer with more than 1.4 million customers. The company would be hard pressed to even address damages much less pay claims in the event of a catastrophic storm.

Christine Ashburn, a spokeswoman for Citizens, said 44,000 policies were being taken out of the state-backed insurer's book of business on Tuesday.

Lawmakers have introduced other legislation to reduce the exposure of the government-run Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. Another bill that is the priority of the governor would make changes to the state's no-fault insurance laws to put the brakes on the runaway fraud on the required Personal Injury Protection (PIP). It's estimated that PIP fraud costs drivers more than $1 billion annually.

The House and Senate have different bills on the PIP issue and Haridopolos wasn't sure they would be resolved before Friday's scheduled adjournment.

"If we can't get it done this week, I'm happy to come back," he said.

Comments

Resource Center

View All »

Top 10 Legal Requirements for E-Signatures in Insurance

Want to make sure you’ve covered all your bases when adopting e-signatures? Learn how to...

Get $100 in leads with $0 down!

NetQuote's detailed, real-time leads have boosted sales for thousands of successful local agents across the...

The Growing Role of Excess & Surplus Lines in Today’s...

The excess and surplus market (E&S) provides coverage when standard insurance carriers cannot or will...

Increase Sales Conversion with this Complimentary White Paper

This whitepaper will share proven techniques - used by many of the industry's top producers...

D&O Policy Definitions: Don't Overlook These Critical Terms

Unlike other forms of insurance where standard policy language prevails, with D&O policies, even seemingly...

Environmental Risk: Lessons Learned from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate...

Whether it’s a chocolate factory or an industrial wastewater treatment facility, cleanup and impacts to...

More Data, Earlier: The Value of Incorporating Data and Analytics...

Incorporating more data earlier in claims lifecycles can help you reduce severity payments by 25%*...

How Many Of Your Clients Are At Risk Of Flood?

Every home is vulnerable to flooding. Learn four compelling reasons why discussing flood insurance with...

Gauging your Business Intelligence Analytics Capabilities and the Impact of...

Big Data, Data Lakes and Data Swamps, How to gauge your company's Big Data readiness....

Extending Contact Center Capabilities Across the Insurance Enterprise

Today advancements in technology are making a big impact on business and society. To yield...

Looking for Markets?

Search Kirschner’s Insurance Directory to help service your hard to place risks.

497 Risk Categories | 70,000 P&C Insurance Markets

kirschners
Specialty Markets Insight eNewsletter

Receive updates and analyses on hard to place and challenging coverages. Sign Up Now!

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.