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Senate Banking and Insurance Committee briefed on state’s property insurance woes

Citizens Property Insurance will be among the committee’s priorities.

Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Chairman Jim Boyd says Citizens Property Insurance will be among the Committee’s priorities during the 2021 Legislative Session.

During a panel meeting Tuesday, Citizens CEO Barry Gilway and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier explained that the state-backed insurance group is experiencing a large policy increase amid ongoing problems in the private insurance market.

Boyd, a GOP Senator from Mantatee County, said the state’s domestic insurance market has a problem.

“We’ve got to get our hands around it,” Boyd said after the meeting. “Part of our plan for this Session is to come up with some policy initiatives that will help us resolve some of these problems.”

Among the problems in Florida’s home insurance market is excessive litigation. As evidence of excessive litigation, Altmaier, who leads the Office of Insurance Regulation, showed Senators a sample of Google search results for ‘roof insurance claim Florida.’

The results illustrated aggressive digital solicitation.

“We need to really spend some time on this, brainstorming ideas and coming up with ways that we might be able to mitigate this kind of activity so that there’s not such an incentive to file complaints of this nature,” Altmaier suggested.

Gilway, meanwhile, told Senators he believes the Legislature can make the insurance market profitable again and prevent mass flight by insurers. He described the effort, however, as an “extremely difficult task.”

“Time is of the essence,” Gilway said. “You can’t wait for another year or two years because — to the Commissioner’s point — you’re going to have more and more companies that decide Florida is not an economic reality for them, and they can apply their capital results elsewhere.”

The Florida Legislature created Citizens Property Insurance Corporation in 2002 as a not-for-profit alternative insurer. Often called the “insurer of last resort,” the corporation exists to supply insurance to property owners who cannot find coverage in the private insurance market.

Roughly a decade ago, Citizens held far fewer policyholders. Today, however, the numbers are growing dramatically, propelled by a cocktail of factors including an economic downturn and Florida’s notorious hurricane season.

The present state-of-affairs, Boyd warned, could ultimately threaten the market and draw private insurance companies seeking profit away from the Sunshine State.

“There’s a great sense of urgency, and we need to get our arms around this,” he said. “If we don’t, I think more domestics are going to leave the market, and that leaves us with fewer players that would be servicing a very large insurance market for. I think we really need to take this very seriously.”

Written By

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at jason@floridapolitics.com or on Twitter at @JasonDelgadoFL.

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