But some have a wish-list of changes they said could improve the state's insurance market. Don Brown, a consultant who is former state legislator and insurance agent, John Rollins, an insurance industry actuary and consultant and new member of Citizens Property Insurance's board, and Lynne McChristian, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute, which represents insurers but does not lobby for laws, shared their ideas at a Sun Sentinel editorial board meeting Tuesday.
Fighting automobile insurance fraud
Problem: Automobile insurance rates are increasing, in part due to inflated and fraudulent personal injury protection insurance claims. State law requires drivers to have $10,000 in PIP coverage, which pays medical bills for policyholders injured in auto accidents regardless of who is at fault.
Insurance industry officials, state leaders and Gov. Rick Scott have all expressed interest recently in tackling the problem with legislation.
Proposals: Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater had planned to release legislative proposals last week and Robin Westcott, the state's Insurance Consumer Advocate, plans to have a proposal out by the end of the month, McChristian said.
There are several bills filed already. SB 254 and HB 119 would, among other things, expand the reasons insurers can deny a claim and allow companies to give policyholders discounts for agreeing to use the insurer's preferred doctors.
SB 286 would beef up penalties for someone who leaves an accident scene that involves a personal injury. The crime would be increased to a second-degree felony, instead of a third-degree felony.
Impact on consumers: Lowering costs for PIP claims could help lower premiums, especially if insurers are required to pass savings to consumers. Some proposals could make it harder for policyholders to get their claims paid.
Shrinking state insurance programs
Problem: Nearly all Floridians would have to pay fees on their auto and property insurance policies if a major hurricane or series of hurricanes wiped out the more than $12 billion in cash that two state insurance programs have.
The Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which sells cheap back up coverage to insurers so they can pass the savings to consumers, may not be able to pay all the claims it's responsible for if there's is a major hurricane. The Senate's insurance committee has asked the fund's manager to come up with a proposal to either raise more cash or shrink the fund. Such a proposal would expand a 2009 law to slowly shrink the fund by $12 billion and charge more for coverage.
Citizens has grown to over 1.4 million policies largely due to State Farm dropping policies and several insurers either folding or experiencing dropping policies after having financial problems, Rollins said. Data he complied from the Office of Insurance Regulation shows Florida-based companies and Citizens have filled the gap left by large national insurers that have been shedding policies since December 2005.
Brown said Citizens will continue to grow if its rates don't increase faster: "Citizens continues to lag further and further behind [private insurers on the] rates they charge."
(That's true for most of the state, except Southeast Florida. State data analyzed by Rollins shows average premiums for Citizens policyholders are higher than those charged by private insurers while average insured values for Citizens' policies are lower, but he said could be because Citizens' policies probably have more windstorm risk.)
Proposals: One solution is to increase the 10 percent cap on annual increases for Citizens policyholders. Rep. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said recently he would sponsor a bill to do that if there is an appetite among other lawmakers and Gov.
HB 245 would allow surplus lines insurers, which aren't fully regulated by the state, to take over Citizens Property Insurance policies in the same way regulated, private insurers can.
Impact on consumers: Lowering the risk of Citizens and the catastrophe fund would likely mean hundreds of dollars in savings for nearly all policyholders in Florida if a major hurricane wiped out the state insurance programs' funds. But shrinking Citizens or the catastrophe fund, or raising their rates, would also result in insurance rate hikes for many South Floridians.