Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Senate Floats Ideas to Help Solve State's Insurance Difficulties; the Plan Involves Financial Help from the Government for Insurers, Homeowners

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Senate Floats Ideas to Help Solve State's Insurance Difficulties; the Plan Involves Financial Help from the Government for Insurers, Homeowners

Article excerpt

Byline: J. TAYLOR RUSHING

TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Senate on Monday released a first-draft batch of ideas on how to solve the state's property insurance crisis: A rebate and rate freeze for public insurance customers, more help for the insurance industry and a uniform state building code for everyone.

The 153-page document will be taken up by the Senate's Banking and Insurance Committee at 9:15 a.m. today and again at 9:15 a.m. Thursday. The committee is chaired by Rockledge Republican Sen. Bill Posey, whose committee will consider expanding the state's Hurricane Catastrophe Fund - which provides reinsurance to companies facing catastrophic costs - but will require that savings find their way to consumers.

"The only rate relief I see right now is the government subsidizing the industry, and any savings on the premiums being passed onto the customer," Posey said. "It is clear that an enormous number of people simply can't pay what the market thinks is appropriate. While I'm sympathetic with the market, I've seen what they've grossed and I've seen what they're paying."

Much of the proposed Senate bill tackles the structure of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-created insurer for property owners who cannot get private insurance elsewhere. Citizens' rates have risen statewide even in areas like Northeast Florida that were largely untouched by the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes.

Highlights of the Senate Draft Bill on Hurricane Preparedness and Property Insurance:

-- Rescind Citizens' Jan. 1 rate increase, provide refunds to those who have already paid it, and freeze Citizens' rates at their Dec. 31, 2006 level for all of 2007;

-- Allow Citizens to offer business property insurance statewide, and order the transfer of such commercial coverage to Citizens from the state Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association;

-- Establish a uniform, statewide building code by eliminating the so-called "Panhandle exemption," which allows weaker construction standards;

-- Require insurance companies to offer policyholders the choice to exclude windstorm coverage, and eliminates maximum deductibles;

-- Require insurance companies to offer policyholders deductibles equal to 50 percent of the property and contents;

-- Rescinds the current allowance for insurance companies to submit proposed rate increases to an arbitration panel if it has been rejected by state regulators. …

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