ORLANDO, FLA.–Florida’s legislative changes to Citizens, its property insurer of last resort, has made the carrier actuarially unsound, the state’s chief financial officer told a meeting of insurance professionals.
Chief Financial Officer Adelaide “Alex” Sink, speaking today at the National Council of Compensation Insurance meeting here, also voiced criticism of the industry for what she said was a failure to express sympathy for the plight of homeowners faced with steep rate increases.
The changes approved by lawmakers earlier this month to Citizens Property Insurance Corp. includes freezing rates for two years and expanding coverage by lowering the rate coverage threshold the company charges to 15 percent from 25 percent above what private carriers charge.
The state’s hurricane catastrophe fund was also beefed up from $23 billion to $39 billion to provide cheap reinsurance in another move to lower rates.
Ms. Sink said she opposed saddling Citizens with additional risk, saying, “I know we are gambling a hurricane will not hit our state.”
If Citizens and the catastrophe fund run a deficit after incurring excessive losses, all of Florida will be subject to assessments to cover cost of bond issues to replace cash reserves, she observed. In addition, lines such as medical malpractice and auto will also see increases.
The CFO, who is a Democrat and elected last year, did not single out any government official, although many of the changes to Citizens have been spearheaded by the Republican Gov. Charlie Crist.
Ms. Sink said it was unfortunate the “insurers were made out to be the bad guys,” but added the industry is partly to blame. “We have not had enough good messaging,” she said.
Carrier messages were all about shareholder losses, and the state rarely heard about sympathy for policyholders from the carriers, she said.
Although some state insurers are starting to take on new property risk, it is difficult to attract outside insurers to Florida “when Citizens is writing actuarially unsound policies,” she said.
Ms. Sink made no mention of the new law championed by Gov. Crist that prohibits national carriers from establishing state-only subsidiaries, a move said by the industry to inhibit such companies from writing in the state.
An audience member drew applause when he told her that capital would come to Florida “if the state was not busy suppressing rates.”
Ms. Sink said she hoped that if the state escapes hurricanes this year then changes could be made to attract insurers.
She said the state had put good building codes in place after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, but noted the state is doing nothing in the area of zoning codes to discourage building in coastal areas.
Ms. Sink said there was positive news about the state’s workers’ compensation insurance market since reforms were introduced three years ago. Rates have been reduced and competition has increased, she said.