Deadline nears for State Farm Florida
Anika Myers Palm | Sentinel Staff Writer
March 30, 2009
State Farm Florida has a little more than two weeks to convince state officials that it shouldn’t have to comply with insurance regulators’ requirements, as the company moves toward withdrawal from the state’s property insurance market.
The requirements include a ruling from Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty that the company must allow its agents to move the State Farm policies they serviced to other companies. State Farm agents currently can offer services only for State Farm and state-backed Citizens Property Insurance.
State Farm had asked for an administrative hearing about McCarty’s ruling, but the Office of Insurance Regulation denied the request. At the time of its appeal, State Farm spokesman Chris Neal said the company had filed the request just to preserve its right to a hearing if necessary.
State Farm can either file an amended petition by 5 p.m. April 14 or drop its request for a hearing.
The company said in January that it would not renew its more than 1 million Florida property-insurance policies.
State Farm Florida will continue to offer auto-insurance policies in the state.
The Shield Our State Coalition, a St. Petersburg-based nonprofit that seeks to influence insurance and finance policy in the state, said last week that it supports a Florida House proposal that would create a public-private solution to the state’s insurance funding problem.
House Bill 1157 would create a tax-exempt fund to hold proceeds from hurricane premiums, while private insurers would be responsible for non-storm-related risks.
Shield Our State said the plan would support Citizens Property Insurance and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund — both of which are expected to be unable to pay claims after a major storm if nothing changes — and that it would mean stable and reduced rates for policyholders in the long urn.
Insurers hoping to maintain good relationships with independent insurance agents might want to look at how often someone from the company contacts the agents, not how much business the agents do, according to a new study.
The J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Insurance Agency Satisfaction Study found that the most important factors leading to agent satisfaction were the ability to have efficient and knowledgeable contacts (32 percent) and offering various kinds of insurance policies so the agents had a number of options to offer their clients (23 percent).
Just 5 percent of the 1,589 agents surveyed said their satisfaction with their jobs was most linked to their compensation.
Agents were happiest when they interacted frequently with contacts from their insurance company, with satisfaction levels especially high when someone from the company visited the agent in person at least once a month, according to the study results.
Regulator of year
Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty has been named regulator of the year for 2008 by a law group.
The LexisNexis Insurance Law Center Advisory Board said it received nearly 50 nominations for four categories, which also included policyholder attorney of the year, insurer attorney of the year and insurance jurist of the year.
In its announcement of McCarty’s award, the center said:
"Although opinions about whether Kevin McCarty’s accomplishments as Insurance Commissioner in the State of Florida may heavily depend on which side of the bar an individual occupies, his impact on the insurance industry — for good or for ill — is undeniable."
William "Chip" Merlin, of Tampa’s Merlin Law Group, received honorable mention in the policyholder attorney category for his work in litigation related to Hurricane Katrina. Merlin serves on the mission review task force for state-backed Citizens Property Insurance.
The insurance law center is part of a LexisNexis group that brings together legal practitioners to interact with colleagues and expand their knowledge in their field. McCarty has been insurance commissioner in Florida since 2003.
Anika Myers Palm can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5022.