By BEATRICE E. GARCIA
Published March 29, 2007
TALLAHASSEE --Efforts to provide consumer-friendly insurance regulation, evident during the special legislative session in January, are meeting much more opposition during the regular session.
A House bill came one step closer to approval Wednesday that would undo some of the consumer-friendly provisions of the massive insurance bill passed by lawmakers during a special session in January.
A so-called ''glitch bill,'' meant to fix small technical problems in the special session bill, would overturn several provisions that would have benefited consumers.
A key provision of this bill would exempt insurers who had negotiated their back-up insurance before the January special session from being required to pass any reinsurance savings onto their policyholders. The special session had required all savings to be passed on to consumers.
Also, insurers would be required to resolve claims in 90 days only for residential homeowners, not for all policyholders. Insurers have complained that commercial claims could be too complex to wrap up in such a short time period.
However, several representatives, including Jack Seiler, D-Wilton Manors, were concerned the glitch bill could leave condo owners and small-business owners without recourse to quick claims payments from insurers.
This bill ''takes away what we've already given'' consumers, said Matthew J. Meadows, D-Lauderhill.
This bill also would leave consumers with little recourse if claims weren't resolved promptly. Rather than taking an insurer to court, consumers would have to go to the Office of Insurance Regulation and ask for a resolution.
''We did good 60 days ago. We were the House that fought for consumers,'' said Rep. Shelley Vana, D-West Palm Beach.
Rep. Ron Reagan, the bill's sponsor and head of the Job and Entrepreneurship Council, said the House and this bill were ``still consumer-focused.''
Reagan promised to address concerns that all residential property owners, including condo and mobile-home owners, would be covered by the provisions of this bill.
Among the other measures in this bill is a requirement to allow insurers to review mitigation discounts and reduce the amount of a discount as the home or the mitigation measures, such as shutters, age.
The bill passed during the special session required insurers to effectively double the current hurricane mitigation discounts available to consumers, making law a provision already passed by the state's insurance regulators.
Efforts to derail this bill by most House Democrats and seven Republicans who voted against amendments weren't enough. The bill comes up for a vote on the House floor today.
So far, there's no companion bill in the Senate. But Sen. Bill Posey, the Rockledge Republican who leads the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, said Wednesday a bill to correct ''technical errors'' in the special session insurance law could surface the week after next.