Florida's top insurance official on Wednesday was given a January deadline to come up with a series of proposals to reduce the size of the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and to further reduce costs in the state's auto-insurance market.
Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said he would comply with requests from Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Chairman David Simmons, R-Maitland, who said depopulating Citizens and restoring the state's private insurance market was one of his top priorities as he starts two years as head of the committee.
Simmons also called on McCarty to put forward proposals to further reduce costs of the state's personal-injury protection insurance, or PIP, after auto insurers failed to reduce rates significantly despite legislative changes put in place last year to curb costs. Those plans are due two weeks after he submits his Citizens plans.
"Thanks for the early Christmas presents," McCarty quipped to Simmons.
McCarty wasn't the only one receiving marching orders. Simmons called on insurance industry representatives, coastal residents and anyone else who has a stake in the Florida property insurance market to submit proposals for the committee to consider at its next scheduled meeting in early January.
Simmons said regulators and other stakeholders need to become more proactive in finding ways to reduce the state's reliance on Citizens, which now handles about 1.5 million policies, nearly 25 percent of the entire market.
"We've given you a lot to do," Simmons said. "We've given the stakeholders a lot to do Let's go ahead and get that done."
Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, said the state should also consider helping out private insurance companies by using the financial clout of the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to provide lower cost reinsurance to carriers. That idea drew support from Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, who applauded Simmons for taking on the issue head-on, but cautioned that a long-term solution may be years away.