Give consumers a choice in insurance
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2009 ; Updated: 6:14 AM on Thursday, April 30, 2009
With two days left in the Florida Legislature’s regular 60-day session, state Rep. Bill Proctor has a bill in the state Senate that will let consumers decide what property insurance they want. The House has adopted it but even if the Senate approves its own version, any changes there will have to go back to the House for approval before full legislative adoption. Then it would be up to Gov. Charlie Crist to decide if it becomes law.
Proctor’s bill should be law because it gives consumers a choice. Shouldn’t property owners get the right to choose what they are willing to pay for?
Proctor, a St. Augustine Republican, filed House Bill 1171 after he heard from some St. Johns County residents who were being canceled by their companies and found they would have to be insured by Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the state-run insurer.
"The bill doesn’t say you have to buy it," Proctor said. "It gives you a choice."
Proctor’s bill requires that the consumer get a side-by-side comparison of rates and coverage between private companies and Citizens. Consumers would be encouraged to discuss all options with their agent and then check out the "shop and compare" rates on the Office of Insurance Regulation’s Web site, www.shopandcomparerates.com. A property owner may decide that Citizens is the best. But the property owner should make that decision.
Proctor has hope his bill will encourage large, private property insurers to come back to Florida to compete for business. That’s good because it gives consumers more choices, and as Proctor says, it could "bring desperately needed new, private, claims-paying capital into our hurricane-prone state." Lawmakers continue to say the state’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund is undercapitalized and would not be able to cover losses if the state were hit by a "Big One" or another series of storms, as we had in two consecutive months in 2004. The "cat fund" is supposed to provide backup coverage for insurers. New insurers to Florida with strong capital would reduce reliance on the "cat fund."
House Bill 1171 should be welcomed by all Florida property owners, even lawmakers. If consumers believe in choice, it’s not too late to let lawmakers know that. If state Senate and House lawmakers — and ultimately, the governor — believe in consumer choice, this bill is a no-brainer.