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Citizens Insurance wants to give away customers

5:33 PM, Jun 1, 2012   |    comments
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Holiday, Florida - Like more than a million people in Florida, retiree Jim Wilson has Citizens Property Insurance. And his experience with the company isn't good.

"It was difficult," says Wilson about his effort to purchase insurance on two Pasco homes.

Wilson says he had to fight with Citizens over inflated appraisals. Wilson had the houses reappraised by 1st Rate Appraisal Services, in order to get his premiums reduced. And Wilson had to deal with Citizens, because the government-backed company was his only choice.

"They're the bully on the block and they just do whatever they want and you don't have many options," says Wilson of Citizens.

In this storm-prone state, Citizens was created by Florida to be an insurance company of last resort and the company's new interim President Tom Grady says Citizens' financial footing depends on returning to that model.

"If we were really the insurer of last resort, rather than the insurer with the best price, then we'd have about half the policies that we do today," said Grady during an interview with 10 News.

To reduce its risk, Citizens actually wants to lose customers to private companies. So right now, Citizens is kind of trying to be the ugliest girl at the dance by raising rates and reducing coverage.

But Grady admits that's a delicate dance, because it angers the company's current 1.5 million dates.

"We've got to balance that consideration," says Grady. "Should we keep prices the same? Should we lower them? Should we raise them today, because it's going to have the opposite impact tomorrow when the storms come," he says.

Grady was in Tampa talking with representatives of private insurance companies and trying to convince them to takeover some of Citizens' policies.

Grady says more competition is the key to solving Florida's insurance crisis, "people like choice," but just like a storm's howling winds, Florida residents have heard that before and it's easier to say, than to accomplish.

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