Vol 6 No. 32 - May 3, 2006

Citizens Insurance seeks third increase

By Louise Bolger
SUN STAFF WRITER

Some weeks it’s just better to read a bad novel or watch American Idol rather than pay attention to the news.

We’re being told to stock up for a possible bird flu pandemic at the same time we’re told to stock up for the pending hurricane season. And the worst news of the week for Florida homeowners is another rate hike on insurance premiums from Citizens Insurance.

As too many of us already know, Citizens is the insurer of last resort in Florida. It is mandated to cover you after your other insurance company has dropped you because it has deemed your property too risky to cover.

What Citizens is asking for now is another increase which would constitute its third this year. This is coming at the same time it is just starting to collect on the second increase that went into effect previously.

The reason for this as stated by the insurance commissioner, is to keep Citizens’ rates higher than any other in the state, as required by law, in order to encourage private insurers to write insurance in Florida.

If you are a Florida homeowner who still has private insurance, consider yourself lucky not to be part of Citizens and its triple rate increase. However, all Florida homeowners are being assessed to help cover Citizen’s short fall and reduce its debt whether they are covered by Citizens or not.

The only light on the horizon comes from the Florida House of Representatives. Rep. Joe Negron proposed an amendment that would allocate $920 million dollars from the state’s general fund to offset the deficit that is currently being carried by Citizens. The state Senate also proposed a similar bill with somewhat lower funds allocated.

Keep in mind these funds, if approved, would only apply to the current deficit and do virtually nothing for future insurance premiums for Citizens’ customers. The proposed bill also allows private insurers to raise rates more easily in order to give them an incentive to write insurance in Florida.

In addition, in an effort to reduce future deficits, the bill suggests that some properties, for instance those that would cost more than $1 million to rebuild, either be charged higher rates, or be removed from Citizens’ coverage entirely. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how many homes on Anna Maria have the potential of falling into this category.

How much affect this latest insurance issue will have on sales in coastal areas is anyone’s guess. For sure there will be some buyers who just can’t afford the insurance and will walk away from homes they might have otherwise considered, but there are probably plenty buyers left who will just consider it part of the price of living in paradise.

Well, that’s the good news/bad news for this week. Unfortunately, it’s mostly bad. I know how to stock up for insurance premium increases, but my greatest fear is that stocking up for the bird flu will be different than stocking up for hurricanes. Just how many cans of Dinty Moore are there in the world?

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