For years, Florida’s property-insurance crisis has remained unsolved, with an ever-building mountain of unfunded debt obligations building up, driving up consumer costs, creating unnecessary risk and uncertainty, hampering Florida’s economic recovery and discouraging insurance competition for your business.
Epitomizing these crises, Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund leadership has testified to the governor and the Legislature that, because of changes in the bond market, the CAT Fund faces a financing hole of $3 billion or more, leaving it unable to keep all of its promises, threatening numerous insurers with insolvency and consumers with new costs increases.
The CAT Fund Chief Operating Officer Jack Nicholson has described the current fund as “dangerously overexposed.” However, without financial solvency, what good is your insurance policy?
Despite these alarms, Florida’s consumers finally have some reasons to feel encouraged. After years of relying on luck rather than responsible action, Senate Bill 1372, sponsored by state Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, and House Bill 833, sponsored by Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, will help to reform the CAT Fund, reduce the risk of financial calamity because of the structure of the fund and benefit consumers statewide. Both bills are based on a proposal from CAT Fund Chief Operating Officer and are necessary for consumer protection.
Businesses and many consumers statewide have suffered from the risk of insurer insolvency, with roughly a dozen insurers facing liquidation in recent years, despite the absence of hurricanes. Also, Floridians have been burdened with the formerly hidden “hurricane taxes” — policyholder assessments, which have been as high as 8 percent and have been levied on most Floridians, even those who do not benefit from the state’s broken system.
These risks have been hard to communicate, but Floridians are catching on. A survey the American Consumer Institute conducted recently found that 70 percent of Floridians fear being assessed these hurricane taxes, including those that would result if the CAT Fund runs out of money to meet its obligations.
In addition, 80 percent of the consumers surveyed did not want the state to sell more insurance coverage than it could pay in claims, and nearly half of consumers were willing to pay more if it would help avoid insolvencies and taxes.
When it comes to protecting insurance consumers, solvency means everything. In this case, the proposed bills will increase private capital in the market and increase market solvency, thereby protecting homeowners from potential financial losses.
Moreover, these proposals protect consumers from unnecessary cost increases and they put our state on firmer financial footing.
As a consumer, you should know that fixing the CAT fund is necessary and that these proposals deserve immediate legislative attention.