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Thousands of Insurance Policies Could Leave Citizens In March

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/News Service of Florida) – Changes are on the way for Citizens Property Insurance customers.

Insurance regulators have given approval for three companies to collectively acquire up to 45,000 residential policies from the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

The March 18 “takeout” would provide up to 10,000 homeowners’ policies for Avatar Property & Casualty Insurance, up to 20,000 for Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance, and up to 15,000 for SafePoint Insurance.

The approvals bring the number of policies that could be taken off the Citizens rolls to 249,341 this year.

However, the number of policies that will actually change hands is expected to be far below that number. “Historically, about 30-35 percent of folks decline,” Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier said in an email.

Past takeouts have resulted in fewer policies being shifted than anticipated because companies seek to acquire many of the same lower-risk policies now held by Citizens.

Still, the takeouts should push Citizens below the 1 million policy mark for the first time since mid-2006.

Citizens ended 2013 with 1,021,694 policies. Reducing the number of polices, thus the potential exposure to the state, has been a focus of government officials for several years. The number of policies stood at 1.5 million in August 2012.

Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway has projected the state-backed insurer should be down to 925,000 policies by the start of the 2014 hurricane season and around 725,000 policies by the end of 2015. A clearinghouse that is expected to further reduce the number of homeowners’ policies in Citizens remains on schedule to begin Jan. 27. Through the clearinghouse, all new applications to Citizens will be shopped to private firms. If coverage is found within 15 percent of Citizens’ premium, the policy would go to the private carrier.

For Citizens customers, renewals will have to go to the private market if comparable coverage is found at or below the state-backed insurer’s rates. The inclusion of Citizens policy renewals into the clearinghouse remains on schedule to begin July 1.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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