Opposition Growing Against Insurance Reform

MIAMI (CBS4) – As the Florida legislature moves to deregulate the homeowners insurance business; there is a late, but growing, opposition to proposals that have drawn little publicity, but promise big premium increases.

Several measures in the Republican-controlled legislature would allow the state-run Citizens Insurance company, and private companies, to impose large rate increases with no questions asked.

Governor Rick Scott suggested he supports an overhaul of the state’s homeowners insurance system, and is a supporter of deregulation. Democratic opponents call the measures an attack on consumers.

“They really don’t do anything but line the pockets of insurance company executives and leave homeowners throughout the state out in the cold,” said Rep. Evan Jenne on Monday.

Jenne, a Democrat from Broward County, said homeowners need to “let their lawmakers know they don’t want this” legislation if it is to be defeated.

Among other things, the measures would raise limits on increases that can be imposed by Citizens, and allow private companies to enact rate hikes without regulatory review.

Proponents say the deregulation would help Citizens maintain solvency in the event of catastrophic claims; and permit other companies to more fairly compete with Citizens whose rates have been kept artificially low.

Supporters also believe the measures would encourage more competition among insurance companies and could eventually lead to lower rates. The insurance industry has pleaded poverty in lobbying for reforms and rate hikes.

The opposition counters that the industry has refused to open up its books, and has played a fiscal “shell game” with subsidiaries created specifically to write Florida policies.

“We haven’t had a major storm in five years, in five long years, and they’re saying that they still can’t make money,” said Broward’s Jenne in an interview from Tallahassee with CBS4’s Gary Nelson.

Homeowners frustrated by increasing insurance costs gathered Saturday afternoon to protest the proposals in the legislature.

Floridians In Action, the group organizing against the hikes, said the bills being introduced in the state House and Senate will further depress cash-strapped homeowners and increase unemployment.

They expressed their discontent by gathering at Tropical Park from noon to 3 p.m., waving signs, shouting and urging passing motorists to honk their horns. There were a lot of horns blowing.

“We just can’t take it anymore,” said Emiliano Antunez, a homeowner who joined the protest Saturday.

Luis Meurice was another angry voter in the group.

“It’s just a habitual problem with [insurance companies], just sticking their hands in our pockets and we are fed up with it,” Meurice said.

Floridians In Action issued a statement saying insurance companies and their Tallahassee enablers “have emptied your pockets through higher insurance rates, which have affected employment(and)…affect every single business and Floridian.”

The group is protesting the following bills:

  • SB 1714 and HB 1243 would give Citizens Property Insurance Corporation the right to raise premiums by as much as 25 percent – a 10 percent increase over what state law currently allows.
  • SB 1462 and HB 4115 would do away with a state law that requires a consumer advocate group to score insurance companies based on claims handling.
  • SB 1330 and HB 885 would allow insurers to hike premiums by as much as 30 percent a year without approval from regulators.
  • SB 408 and HB 803 proposes shortening the time homeowners have to file hurricane and sinkhole claims. Insurance companies could be allowed to drop sinkhole coverage all together.

At Pete’s Barber Shop in Pinecrest Monday customers were outraged to learn details of the proposed deregulation.

“I don’t think it’s a very good idea, I don’t think that most people can afford it now,” said Dave Ferguson, a homeowner who says he pays “about $5,000” a year for insurance already.

Sitting in the next chair over, Bruce Troen echoed the discontent.

“If you get rid of most of the regulation; then abuses will occur and homeowners will suffer,” Troen said.

Doug Bertner, who owns a home in Kendall, said he has been priced out of insurance coverage.

“I don’t have homeowners insurance,” said Bertner, who has paid off his mortgage and isn’t required to carry a policy. “I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that nothing catastrophic happens.”

If you’d like to contact your representative to give your voice either in favor, or opposing, the planned insurance reform, click here.

More from Gary Nelson

    Get Norman Braman on.
    We need a recall vote on all our legislaters if they let this scam go through.
    Isnt our unemployment and housing market bad enough?
    No one will come to work here or buy a home here if this passes, not to mention more people will just walk away from there homes. This place will be a ghost town in a few years.

  • Dean

    In 20 years I have had one homeowners insurance claim for $7,000 after Wilma blew threw. I just had my rates go from $2,400 a year to $6,300 a year with USAA!

  • Joseph Russo

    My wife and I are both 71 years old. We live on a fixed income. Is the Florida legislature trying to force us out of this state, where we have lived for the past forty years?

    I wonder if the people who voted for Governor Scott are happy now.
    Governer Scott should be impeached.

  • Carole Russo

    How dare the Florida legislature try to enable insurance companys to further raise their rates. The most vulnerable people among us will be devistated. What kind of people are these?

    Not to mention the threat to school funding.

    Governor Scott is a disaster and should be impeached. This state can’t take four years of the likes of him.

  • Michael Rayner

    All you idiots who voted for Rick Scott are getting what you deserve. I was dropped by State Farm because of their purported loses in Florida. As Jenne said, they set up a Florida subsidiary after the hurricanes in 2006 and of course they are going to show losses. In reality State Farm turned over a $1 billion profit nationally. I was one of the 50% od Florida homeowners they arbitrarily dropped due to “losses” in Florida, and Citizens raised my rates 54%.
    Another 25% will force me to sell my home. Governor Scott-you should be ashamed along with your special interst cronies. You should also be in jail, not in the Governor’s mansion!

  • J. Bass

    How many more foreclosures does the State of Florida need before calling a halt to the greed and avarice of insurance executives lining their pockets? Don’t we have enough foreclosures? So many families are barely hanging on in the shadow of unemployment making enormous sacrifices to keep their homes. And the seniors with fixed incomes and no annual adjustments to offset the skyrocketing property taxes and homeowners insurance rates. Even if they could return to the work force, (many would be willing), are there jobs for them? Hardly. Something is very, very wrong in Florida both financially and morally.

  • Ray

    Just another piece of legislation that the Florida legislature wants to pass to “fill state coffers” or “save the state money”. To the so called leader/s of this state, “you reap what you sow”, short and long term.To the voters of Florida, remember these actions/mistakes.The 2012 elections are just around the corner.Let us learn from the mistakes of 2010.and assure they are not REPEATED.

  • marie,miramar

    the rich will continue to get richer by riding the backs of the poor. who is looking out for us . they promise we elect and we still stand alone.how can we take any more ,no work and more bills.how are we to cope.

  • Richy

    This is insane. Insurance companies are already making large profits. This will cause more foreclosures. The state of Florida is already rank in the top 10 states with the highest foreclosure rate. Is Rick Scott trying to make us number one. This is outrageous

  • Lori Ezzo McCaghren

    Do you guys have any ideas of how to fix this? Instead of complaining about it come up with a better idea.

    My insurance went from 2400/year to 8000/year PLUS I’m paying a percentage of my insurance to keep Citizen’s afloat, and I don’t have a multimillion dollar house in Weston. Why should I have to pay for Citizen’s? Everyone who doesn’t have Citizen’s is paying this fee, How much is that raking in?

    More regulation certainly didn’t keep my insurance rates lower, maybe loosening the regulation will allow more companies to come into this state. I’m tired of paying for insurance that I don’t have!

    Not to mention I’m stuck in this quick sand called S Florida.. I’ll never be able to sell my house for what I owe on it and I bought before the prices went through the roof.

  • Carmen Cartaya

    In any Las Vegas Restaurants or La Casita restaurant in Broward and Miami you can sign the petition against this legislation. For more details you can call 305-443-0036 or 305-443-0075

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