Insurance rate cuts shrink

In many cases, reductions merely lower the size of approved hikes.

Article Courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times

By Tom Zucco
Published  March 16, 2007

The insurance tally out of Tallahassee Thursday - the state-imposed deadline for property insurers to file for rate cuts under a new state formula - was sobering.

In most cases, the insurers' proposed cuts are only a fraction of what regulators had promised. And sorting through the details could take until September. The upshot: policyholders could wait over a year in some cases to actually see a price cut with their renewal and, in many instances, homeowners will still see their rates go up.

Regulators said two weeks ago that the average rate reduction for homeowners insurance, based on new changes to Florida law that allow easier access to cheaper, state-backed reinsurance, should be 24.3-percent.

State Farm, Florida's second-largest property insurer, Thursday filed for a 7-percent rate cut, as expected. Allstate, Nationwide, Liberty Mutual, Travelers and several other companies also have filed rate cuts well below that 24 percent benchmark.

Auto Owners, which acknowledged Thursday it is not renewing about 16,000 of its 40,000 policies in Florida, filed for a 5.8-percent reduction. And state-backed Citizens Property Insurance estimates its reduction will be 8-10 percent.

The rate cuts begin June 1 and continue for a year as policies come up for renewal.

But policyholders shouldn't expect to see their insurance bill drop anytime soon. Many of the reductions, which apply only to the wind portion of a policy, are on top of far larger overall rate hikes that were approved last year. In many cases, the reductions merely lower the size of the increase.

And because regulators want to review and possibly negotiate many of the filings, it could be until September before the savings begin to take effect.

The reductions also vary. For State Farm policyholders in the Tampa Bay area, the reductions range from a high of 9.3-percent in north-central Pinellas County, to 1.3-percent in south-central Pinellas.

In most of Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, the cuts are around 4.5-percent.

State Farm officials say their reduction is small because it buys most of its reinsurance from its parent company, saving money over what it would cost to buy it from other reinsurers.

"The rate we're paying for reinsurance is the same as the state-backed coverage," said State Farm spokesman Chris Neal. "So we don't get that direct cost benefit."

Fast Facts:

Lower premiums

Company: Rate reduction

Tower Hill: 22.4%
Allstate: 14%
Liberty Mutual:  8.7%
Citizens:  8-10% (estimated)
Travelers: 8.2%
First Floridian: 8.2%
State Farm: 7%
Auto-Owners: 5.8%
Nationwide: 4.5%

Check rates online

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has added a page to its Web site that allows Floridians to view adjustments to their premiums based on recent insurer filings. The rate changes are required by the new property insurance reform law. The Web page will allow consumers to view the amount of the new rate cuts and is available at