Today's Letters: Sinkhole bills come with risks

Article Courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times

Letter to Editor
Published  April 20, 2007

Last week, HAC met with Florida chief financial officer Alex Sink's insurance consumer advocate, Gen. Bob Milligan. He voiced his concerns about having optional sinkhole coverage. He felt the people of Florida need to be made aware of the pitfalls of not being covered for sinkholes as well as being underinsured and having too large of a deductible.

Milligan said we are unable to get much information on the sinkhole legislation because it is still being worded and the final results are not due until presumably Sept. 1.

He suggests that everyone call, write or e-mail their elected officials and voice the need for an "opt-out" policy. Even the Times reported that Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said in December he preferred that customers be given the chance to opt out, because of the risks to people who are not well informed. Homeowners need to know that reduced rates come with the assumption of greater risk

Some elected officials have informed people that the benefit of dropping sinkhole coverage is it will lower your bill between 50 and 60 percent. Carrie Vaught-Henriquez, legislative coordinator with the Office of Insurance Regulation, stated in an e-mail to me: "Sinkhole coverage and the risks related to sinkholes are not factored into the wind portion of the premium; therefore the opting out of sinkhole coverage will only decrease the 'all other perils' portion of your premium." This means only the portion of your bill that does not cover wind (hurricane) or flood.

We have been told by some elected officials that the major banks have agreed to allow the opting out of sinkhole coverage. But be warned that not all banks will allow this, especially local banks that are aware that we live in a sinkhole prone area. It is a shame that they fought so hard to take away sinkhole coverage to lower premiums and did not focus more on taking the lawyers and fraud out of sinkholes.

We at HAC will not take a position on the optional sinkhole coverage since we do not have full disclosure of all the possible ramifications. On two separate occasions, with two different legislators, I was yelled at by both of them and called a media hog by one of them. All of this was in an effort to seek more information.

We feel that backing it before all the facts are in could be disastrous and similar to last year's SB 1980, which was voted on without knowing all the terrible consequences. Later it required calling a special session at great cost to the taxpayers to repeal this terrible bill.

We at HAC are a nonpartisan group and might back an elected official on one thing and oppose them on another. We will only back things that will mean rate relief without back-door openings for the insurance industry or hidden agendas for politicians.

Ginny Stevans, president HAC (Having Affordable Coverage), New Port Richey