Second property insurance session looms, ‘system reform’ promised

Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 6:20 PM EST
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We’re seven days from Florida’s second attempt at fixing its teetering property insurance market this year. Lawmakers return to Tallahassee next week for another special session. They hope to stabilize insurance carriers and bring down high costs for consumers.

As we get closer to the opening gavel drop, details continue to trickle in for expectations. While the Legislature has not offered the specifics yet, Florida's new legislative leaders are promising "systemic reform."

By the numbers, things are about as bad as ever for the property insurance market. Not only did the state suffer another costly hurricane this fall, but Florida had six insurers go insolvent this year.

Premiums in the Sunshine State are now among the highest in the country. Prices drove many consumers to the state-backed insurer of last resort, Citizens. It has more than doubled its policies in two years, now exceeding 1.1 million, according to the latest report.

"We're still losing carriers," state Rep. Daniel Perez, R-Miami. "Premiums are still going up. Denials are still happening more often than not."

Perez, a high-ranking Republican and future House Speaker, told us the final policy for the special session is close to a rollout.

Among the possible ideas, he said, is further work curbing attorney fees. Insurers have said they're incentivizing frivolous lawsuits as Florida has about 80% of the nation's claims litigation. But that could be just the tip of the iceberg.

"I don't think anyone is safe," Perez said. "I think everyone's gonna get looked at. You're talking about attorneys. Yes, you're talking about insurance companies, too. You're talking about public adjusters, and you're talking about the consumer. I think everyone is getting looked at— dissected. And eventually will have to deal with whatever policy we put out there."

Another idea getting traction is a temporary boost to reinsurance. It's a concept Gov. Ron DeSantis sounded supportive of while speaking in Miami-Dade County last week.

"They'd (insurers) have to buy into it — we're not just going to give it away," DeSantis said. "But can we, since we have such massive budget reserves right now, could we provide a bridge on re-insurance?"

The big goal, Republicans agree, is to make Florida's market appealing. They hope it'll mean more insurers enter, more competition and lower prices — in time.

Democratic leaders told us last month they wanted quicker fixes like rate freezes. Sen. Minority Leader Lauren Book was leery of a repeat of the May special session, which focused more on tort reform.

"We need to cut the crap and get to the bottom of the work that we need to do to take care of Floridians," Book said during the November organizing session.

The GOP majority has vowed to consider all ideas, though a direct market intervention may be a non-starter for the controlling party.

Officials inside the Senate president's office said to expect further information on the Legislature's plans for the special session "early this week."

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