Dangerous winds still blowing
Bold action needed to fix Florida’s ongoing insurance crisis
BY DAN MONTGOMERY • GUEST COLUMNIST • April 5, 2009
If you live in Florida, you likely have seen reports warning that our property insurance market is teetering dangerously on the brink — possibly one major hurricane away from disaster.
State leaders are scrambling to find answers to this looming threat.
Simply put, we need a bold new solution.
You might ask, what does this mean to me?
State-created Citizens Property Insurance Corporation and the Hurricane Catastrophe Fund are not funded for a major hurricane. Small, start-up and untested property insurers — so-called “takeout companies” whose financial strength is questioned by independent rating agencies — may not be standing after a major storm.
All Floridians face the threat of paying thousands of dollars in assessments — a “hidden hurricane tax” — on home, auto, boat and business policies when Citizens and the Cat Fund can’t pay claims.
What’s the answer? A new kind of public-private partnership.
Shield Our State is a nonprofit coalition that is urging lawmakers to consider bold new solutions to our property insurance market before it’s too late.
These solutions would provide all homeowners, commercial-residential property owners and small business property owners with greater financial security, stabilize insurance rates and revitalize a crumbling residential property insurance market.
Florida needs a better way to manage the state’s inherent catastrophe risk. Our property insurance market should be able to pay claims after a major storm while offering choices and competitive insurance rates to consumers. One option is a public-private partnership with the state and private insurers.
Shield Our State’s proposal calls for the hurricane portion of consumers’ premiums to be placed in a new, state-established tax-exempt fund, where they would build up over time and be used only to pay property hurricane losses, ensuring maximum consumer protection.
Private insurers would continue to write and service policies and manage claims.
Insurers will deposit the hurricane portion of consumers’ premiums into the state fund — on average, 50 percent to 60 percent of a total homeowner’s premium. This would ensure that our hurricane premiums grow quickly, don’t leave Florida and are used only to pay our hurricane claims.
By considering bold solutions like a public-private partnership, the state-run insurer (CPIC/Citizens) will return to being a true “insurer of last resort.”
The shaky Cat Fund can be eliminated. Floridians will see residential insurance premiums stabilize — thanks to a more efficient, dependable system that encourages private insurers to compete in our state again, and maximizes the availability of hurricane premiums to pay hurricane claims.
The time to act is now. If you agree that Florida’s property insurance situation is a problem and share my concern for our families and businesses facing an uncertain economy, please join me in advocating for bold new solutions.
Visit www.shieldourstate.org to learn more. Join the coalition with other Floridians, and make your voice heard now. I’m confident that together, we can fix a broken system and shield our state from impending disaster.
Dan Montgomery is managing director of the Shield Our State Coalition in Florida, based in St. Petersburg.