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Politics

Citizens Board Agrees to Stair-Step Statewide Sinkhole Insurance Rate Hike

September 11, 2011 - 6:00pm

There will be no reduction in the proposal to boost Citizens sinkhole insurance by 428 percent across Florida and by more than 2,200 percent in the Tampa Bay area known as "Sinkhole Alley."

However, rather than slamming customers with the hit all at once, members of the governing board for Citizens Property Insurance Corp. on Monday agreed without objection that any approved rate increases will be phased in over a number of years.

The first step would be for 50 percent of the requested rate hike for sinkhole coverage in the first year. The agency will consider future hike totals in subsequent years.

I dont think if we get the rates we want, the chairman will ensure we have another meeting, said board member Tom Wallace, a former state House member from Tampa.

Count on it, replied Citizens board chairman Carlos LaCasa.

LaCasa, a former state representative from Miami, was appointed the new chairman of the Citizens board last Wednesday by state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. He replaced Naples businessman Jim Malone.

LaCasa called Monday's emergency board meeting to deal with complaints about the proposed hike, which is set to go before the Office of Insurance Regulation Tuesday in Tampa.

"I want to tell you how moved I am that those of you who were newly appointed to the board were initiated into your work on Citizens with such a controversial and important matter," LaCasa said.

Prior to Mondays meeting, Gov. Rick Scott said any adjustments to the proposed rate hike for Citizens sinkhole insurance must be fair to both insurance providers and customers.

We have to have a financially sound insurance program, we want insurance companies coming to our state, but we've got to be fair to our citizens also, Scott said.

Citizens, with 1.4 million policies, is the states largest property insurer. While Citizens accounts for less than 15 percent of insurance policies in most counties, the percentages range from 20 to more than 50 per county in the Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough county region.

Citizens' officials have claimed that the rate increases are needed because current premiums dont cover payouts for sinkhole claims.

In 2010, sinkhole coverage premiums brought in $32 million to Citizens, while sinkhole claims required nearly $250 million in payouts.

Florida House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, called the increase a reform measure and applauded the decision to stagger the increase.

Under the leadership of board chair Carlos LaCasa, Citizens appropriately recognized the impact that SB 408, a comprehensive insurance bill passed last session, could have on reducing the volume and cost of claims," Weatherford stated in a release. "The Florida Legislature is laser-focused on preventing fraud, which will ultimately lower insurance costs for all policyholders. We know that it is going to take time for these reforms to work, and we also know that Floridians cannot shoulder such dramatic increases, particularly in the middle of a national recession."

In the 2011 legislative session, the insurance reform bill SB 408 lifted a 10 percent cap on the maximum rate sinkhole premiums could be increased. All other policies, homeowners' and dwelling/fire lines, continue to have a 10 percent cap this year.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation hearing is set for 4 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center.

The Florida Channel will cover the hearing live on its website: http://thefloridachannel.org/.

Region Overall rate increase proposed Number of policies
Alachua 48% 334
Baker 237% 8
Bay Coastal 225% 143
Bay Remainder 224% 208
Bradford 237% 18
Brevard Coastal 909% 2,770
Brevard Remainder 286% 2,009
Broward: Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood 1332% 8,124
Broward Coastal 214% 259
Broward Remainder 291% 36,245
Calhoun 236% 5
Charlotte Coastal 193% 1,125
Charlotte Remainder 1181% 2,913
Citrus Coastal 1838% 131
Citrus Remainder 0% 229
Clay 1348% 142
Collier Coastal 713% 441
Collier Remainder 1,093% 915
Columbia 234% 39
Dade Miami Beach 471% 430
Dade Coastal 435% 303
Dade Miami 1186% 6,942
Dade Hialeah 1409% 4,989
Dade Remainder 875% 55,995
De Soto 227% 46
Dixie Coastal 237% 36
Dixie Remainder 237% 18
Duval, Jacksonville 1,206% 814
Duval Coastal 214% 4
Duval Remainder 237% 583
Escambia Coastal 234% 35
Escambia Remainder 2680% 484
Flagler Coastal 236% 69
Flagler Remainder 226% 183
Franklin 234% 26
Gadsden 222% 118
Gilchrist 236% 30
Glades 229% 9
Gulf Coastal 234% 617
Gulf Remainder 236% 2
Hamilton 236% 7
Hardee 233% 10
Hendry 1,482% 32
Hernando Coastal 351% 931
Hernando Remainder 509% 10,694
Highlands 221% 109
Hillsborough Tampa 2,392% 8,235
Hillsborough Remainder 1,396% 14,537
Holmes 236% 5
Indian River Coastal 229% 492
Indian River Remainder 203% 100
Jackson 235% 31
Jefferson Coastal 0% 0
Jefferson Remainder 235% 15
Lafayette 236% 17
Lake 0% 274
Lee Coastal 206% 489
Lee Remainder 2,081% 4,783
Leon 1,367% 304
Levy Coastal 233% 88
Levy Remainder 235% 45
Liberty 236% 1
Madison 236% 13
Manatee Coastal 211% 511
Manatee Remainder 1,K% 3,343
Marion 185% 449
Martin Coastal 229% 22
Martin Remainder 664% 559
Monroe, Excl. Key West Key West, 237% 185
Monroe Remainder, 219% 11
Nassau Coastal 227% 215
Nassau Remainder 237% 47
Okaloosa Coastal 232% 79
Okaloosa Remainder 212% 543
Okeechobee 226% 25
Orange, Orlando 2,021% 173
Orange, Excl. Orlando 2,270% 754
Osceola 2,018% 227
Palm Beach Coastal 761% 486
Palm Beach Remainder 972% 23,880
Pasco Coastal 202% 1,231
Pasco Remainder 221% 9,308
Pinellas Coastal 2186% 2,367
Pinellas St. Petersburg 129% 14,863
Pinellas Remainder 5% 31,167
Polk 696% 488
Putnam 230% 101
Saint Johns Coastal 2248% 670
Saint Johns Remainder 218% 345
Saint Lucie Coastal 231% 45
Saint Lucie Remainder 286% 822
Santa Rosa Coastal 234% 7
Santa Rosa Remainder 217% 337
Sarasota Coastal 2,051% 2,256
Sarasota Remainder 1,184% 4,169
Seminole 1,007% 333
Sumter 230% 123
Suwannee 236% 19
Taylor Coastal 236% 37
Taylor Remainder 237% 8
Union 237% 47
Volusia Coastal 203% 901
Volusia Remainder 1775% 3,476
Wakulla Coastal 234% 26
Wakulla Remainder 235% 22
Walton Coastal 227% 137
Walton Remainder 236% 17
Washington 236% 9

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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