Citizens Insurance hikes are 'economic disaster,' says State Senator Mike Fasano

8:52 PM, Oct 3, 2012   |    comments
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It's a change that could affect more than a million Floridians: insurance policy rates with the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corporation are set to increase after the new year.

The average homeowners policy increase would rise 10.8 percent. Part of the goal is to reduce the number of policies relying on Citizens, and shift more of them to the private insurance market.

The change comes months after Citizens' board has approved such measures as no longer covering some screen enclosures and carports, and allowing the insurer to increase rates more quickly and pass excessive risk to policy owners.

"I'm disgusted and I'm disappointed," says Senator Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey). "Homeowners can no longer afford these types of increases or even the premiums they're paying now. We're seeing more and more people going without insurance because they have the luxury of not having a mortgage. That means you have more and more homes in the Tampa Bay area without property insurance."

In a statement, Citizens says it's "pleased that Insurance Commissioner [Kevin] McCarty approved its measured approach to achieving sound rates and reducing the potential financial burden of assessments for all Floridians." 

Citizens also says it's a good move as it, the state's largest home and business insurer, works toward bringing its reserves of around $17 billion more in line with its exposure of $491 billion.

"I would like to see Citizens go away, but not if it's going to be at the expense of driving the consumers out of their homes," says Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton).

Sen. Bennett says along with looking at how Citizens sets rates, perhaps there should be a look into whether private insurance companies are overcharging.

"Private insurance companies should be first and Citizens should truly be a carrier of last resort," he says.

The fear for some is that with rising premiums could come rising foreclosures.

"This is economic disaster for our state if they allow Citizens to continue to go in the direction they're going," says Sen. Fasano.

The ideal solution, from Fasano's view, would be for Citizens to exist as a state pool that provides windstorm and sinkhole policies, with all other kinds of insurance covered by the private market.

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