I’ll make my own home-insurance choice
May 10, 2009
With State Farm pulling out of the state, many of its Central Florida customers are finding they face higher premiums and less coverage with smaller companies.
I am one of them.
I have learned that longtime State Farm customers who live in the interior often enjoy pretty reasonable rates.
Charlie Crist wasn’t thinking about us when, in his populist bluster, he proclaimed Florida better off without State Farm.
Thankfully, state lawmakers disagreed.
They passed a bill this month designed to keep big carriers like State Farm in Florida. It does this by exempting their rates from regulation by the state Office of Insurance Regulation.
Those big carriers could raise them to the moon.
If they did, you then would be free to sign up with a cheaper carrier that is regulated by the state. And all of this would be clearly explained to you.
This legislation came in response to thousands of State Farm customers who said they would pay more to stay with the company.
They think they can decide what is in their own best interest.
But such free-market notions trouble Crist, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty.
They seem to think we need to be protected from ourselves.
Sink wonders whether the bill would be an opening for "other big companies to come in here and be deregulated." And, heaven forbid, once that happens, we’re on the slippery slope to competition.
Crist says he prefers the state keep its regulatory stranglehold on the industry. That way he can control insurance premiums to his political advantage.
McCarty says if this legislation passes, big insurers "will almost assuredly increase the rates they charge in Florida."
I find this particularly amusing, given that the state is increasing rates charged by Citizens Property Insurance. The government carrier plans to increase rates up to 10 percent a year for the next several years.
So we are kicking State Farm out for trying to raise rates, thereby forcing many of its customers into Citizens, where they will face raised rates.
These guys are a hoot.
McCarty also warns that a company like State Farm may dump you even with unregulated rates. Or it may jack up rates for a few years and then dump you.
My response: How about I worry about that and not you?
Leave it to me and State Farm to determine when we part company, not you.
Let me pick my insurer from my list, not yours. If I want to pay State Farm $10,000 a year — or $100,000 for that matter — then let me pay it. Maybe for some crazy reason I take comfort in the fact that State Farm has survived multiple hurricanes in Florida, has always paid its claims and has never required a taxpayer bailout.
Yeah, Charlie, let’s get rid of these deadbeats.
If State Farm dumps me, then maybe this legislation will tempt USAA to start writing new policies in Florida. Like a lot of other people, I would pay more for USAA.
I am capable of making such decisions.
I do not need to be a ward of Charlie’s state.
What would happen if this bill becomes a law?
Here is a guess: Big insurers like State Farm will jack up rates significantly on the coast, particularly South Florida, where the hurricane threat is greatest. They will jack them up much less in the interior, where the threat is diminished.
In fact, some big insurers may start soliciting business around Orlando.
And then maybe smaller insurers with solid financial backing will be given more flexibility to adjust their rates.
Who knows where this could lead?
Perhaps one day, people in Miami may actually pay rates that reflect the risk of where they have chosen to live. And people in Orlando won’t have to bail them out after the next hurricane.
Mike Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5525.