Our view: A deafening silence

Crist, lawmakers letting insurance companies steamroll Florida homeowners

Article Courtesy of Florida Today

An Editorial 
Published April 1, 2007


Where are you, "people's governor" Charlie Crist?

Where are you, leaders in Florida's House and Senate?

Why aren't you screaming about the continued attempts by insurers to loot residents' pockets?

Every day there's more evidence the special session in January on the property insurance crisis was a sham.

Here's the latest update on fat profits at the nation's major property insurance companies:

Allstate reported a record $5 billion profit for 2006.

  • State Farm Insurance's profits hit $5.3 billion.

  • In sum, the property-casualty industry earned $68 billion in 2006 -- up from $49 billion in 2005.

And 2007 is expected to bring another bonanza for insurers, with profits reaching $62.2 billion if the hurricane season is mild.


Given those numbers, you'd think Florida consumers would be seeing real relief on policy rate reductions, as promised by lawmakers after the January session.


But what's actually happening?


An analysis of all proposed rate cuts by 118 companies shows the average reduction for a home or condo owner will be a trivial 10.9 percent.


State Farm wants to pare just an average 7 percent off its charges to consumers, Allstate Floridian an average 14 percent and Nationwide, a miserly average 4.5 percent.


Note, we say "average." Many policyholders will get much less.


State regulators asked one insurer to justify its request for a 2.6 percent rate cut and have indicated they're likely to challenge more of the filings.


They shouldn't delay.


Consumers want answers -- now.


Where did cuts predicted to average 24 percent go, made possible by new legislation that offers insurers $12 billion more in state-backed reinsurance compliments of taxpayer money?

Even those promised decreases are a slap in the face to policy owners who've already swallowed bills boosted by 100 percent, 200 percent, or more.


Meanwhile, the flood of cancellation notices continue, with Allstate saying it will drop 106,000 policies statewide, including 6,100 in Brevard.


The pauper's cuts proposed are evidence of pure greed at work.


What's more, Republicans in the House now say insurance reforms they passed in January went too far and are crafting give-backs -- obviously buckling to industry pressure.


A House bill debated Wednesday would no longer let condo residents buy a policy that excludes windstorm coverage.


And it would exempt them from new protections such as a 90-day deadline for insurers to pay claims, on the argument special session reforms were intended to help only Floridians who live in homes.


Brevard lawmakers supporting the restrictions include Reps. Thad Altman, R-Viera, Mitch Needelman, R-Melbourne, and Ralph Poppell, R-Vero Beach.


Memo to the gang:

Condos are homes, too.


Rep. Bob Allen, R-Merritt Island, rightly opposes the move to placate insurers.


He saw the rate-cut meltdown coming, too, warning in January that Florida residents were unlikely to see major reductions despite happy talk from fellow GOP party members.


And Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, has proposed a strongly pro-consumer measure to give new Insurance Consumer Advocate Bob Milligan much more authority to investigate insurance companies and intervene when rate hikes are requested.


That's needed, but where is the outcry from Crist and other leaders about the highway robbery insurers are still foisting on Florida residents?


On that subject, the silence coming from Tallahassee is deafening.