Citizens ratepayers vulnerable to biggest storms
TALLAHASSEE — Citizens Property Insurance, the state-backed company that is the largest property insurer in Florida, has enough in reserves and reinsurance coverage to pay claims unless there's a 1-in-50-year hurricane like Andrew — or a season with multiple major hurricanes like 2004, a Citizens official told Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet June 16. According to a report from the News Service of Florida, Susanne Murphy, executive vice president of Citizens, told Cabinet members that the company has about $10 billion in reserves for its coastal wind-only accounts and another $5.6 billion for other accounts, although that includes about $3 billion in liquidity from bond sales that would have to be paid back. A 1-in-5 year hurricane could be handled just with Citizens current surplus, and even a 1-in-25 year storm that causes $8 billion in damage could be paid for with the company's surplus and its reinsurance through the state Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.
If a major storm like Andrew hit, however, it would mean assessments on Florida policyholders, and Murphy reminded the Cabinet that the law has changed so Citizens policyholders bear the largest share of that cost as well. Citizens policyholders could be assessed a fee equal to 15% of their premium for each of the company's three accounts in deficit — meaning a possible 45% hit if there's a large storm on which the company can't pay claims. People insured by the private market could see assessments up to 6% of their premium for each account. The assessed amount would vary depending on how long state officials stretch the payments out — with the possibility that a large assessment might be charged over decades to keep the annual amount lower.