Crist lets down property owners
The Tampa Tribune
Published: June 26, 2009
Shortly before Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the Consumer Choice Bill on Wednesday, state Rep. Bill Proctor finally obtained a list of the 40 companies the Department of Insurance brags it has attracted to Florida in the last three years to build a market for windstorm coverage.
Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, and to a lesser extent the governor himself, has said these companies brought with them $4 billion in capital. But if the list is accurate, $3.8 billion is from companies that typically cover uninsurable or risky properties – not your typical home – and are not even regulated by the state. So the state is hardly bolstering the insurance market as McCarty claims.
Yet he used the lack of regulation in the Consumer Choice Bill, plus his conviction that well-financed insurance giants such as State Farm would "cherry-pick" their customers here, to convince Crist to veto a bill that would have provided consumers more options.
The "people’s governor" made a mistake. Lawmakers should override his veto.
There is no cogent argument as to why Florida homeowners should not be allowed to buy a policy from a company in which they have confidence and at a rate they are willing to pay.
Today the biggest – and often most expensive – insurer in Florida, the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp., handles more than 1 million policies. It also can’t afford to pay its policyholders for wind damage if a major hurricane hits.
Few policyholders have any idea the extent to which they are already being assessed to pay for the damage from the eight storms in 2004 and 2005, much less how much more it will cost them if we have additional storms this year.
But with Crist’s veto, folks who want the peace of mind that comes with being insured through a large company they know has money in the bank to efficiently pay claims won’t be allowed that option.
Moreover, the veto all but guarantees the loss of State Farm in this market. The company says it’s losing money and will quit providing coverage within a couple of years. Its departure will displace some 400,000 policyholders.
As Rep. Proctor has written, "It is difficult to accept that Citizens, 40 new companies, and what is likely to be a remnant of national companies comprise an adequate homeowners insurance program" in Florida.
In other words, we’re still in a mess