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Florida insurance commissioner says reforms easing crisis, bringing stability

As Citizens' policy numbers continue to increase, the head of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation says the state’s insurance market is improving.


  • By Louis Llovio
  • | 12:45 p.m. January 2, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Driving down Estero Boulevard, the main road that runs the length of Fort Myers Beach, the widespread destruction that Hurricane Ian wrought is still on full display.
Driving down Estero Boulevard, the main road that runs the length of Fort Myers Beach, the widespread destruction that Hurricane Ian wrought is still on full display.
Photo by Stefania Pifferi
  • Florida
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As Florida property owners continue to deal with skyrocketing premiums that are strangling budgets and threatening future development, the state’s insurance commissioner is trying to shine a spotlight on progress made in 2023 that, he says, “promote a stable and competitive insurance market.”

In an end-of-year statement released Dec. 29, Michael Yaworsky, the head of the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation, laid out several legislative accomplishments approved last year and efforts taken by his office as proof that the property insurance crisis is easing. These actions, Yaworsky says, “reduce litigation, increase consumer choice and ensure the long-term stability of the market.”

While Yaworsky is optimistic about the future of the insurance market, property owners across the state and those in the industry will likely reserve judgement until insurance bills start rolling in. This reluctance is due to the historic challenges they have faced in recent years, with premiums rising, more demands being placed on them when shopping for coverage and fewer options to choose from.

The poster child of the market’s troubles has been the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Citizens was created as the insurer of last resort but became the go-to source for property insurance as more and more companies quit writing policies in the state. As of Nov. 30, Citizens had 1.26 million policies in place, up from 1.14 million on Dec. 31, 2022 and 759,305 on Dec. 31, 2021. That increase — up 58.42% in two years — has added to the fear that the state’s teetering system could collapse because as Citizens’ customer number rises so did its liabilities.



That said, the state’s legislature and OIR have made some progress toward easing pressure, reforming how much attorneys can collect to cut down on lawsuits and working to expand the number of companies doing business in the state.

Yaworsky was appointed to his position in February. These are the measures he says are improving the prospects of the state’s property insurance market:


Attracting new carriers

Since reforms were passed earlier this year, Yaworsky says OIR has approved six property and casualty insurers to enter the market: Condo Owners Reciprocal Exchange; Orange Insurance Exchange; Orion 180 Select Insurance Co.; Orion 180 Insurance Co.; Mainsail Insurance Co.; and Tailrow Insurance Co.


Legislative action

In May, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed three bills that “strengthen consumer protections within Florida’s property insurance market and expand the state’s home hardening and hazard mitigation programs.”

  • SB 7052 clarifies that once a roof deductible is applied, no other deductible under the policy may be applied to any loss caused by the same covered peril; requires insurers to provide consumer-friendly information on their website; requires insurers to follow proper claims handling practices and increases penalties for insurers who don’t; prohibits any altering or amending of an adjuster’s report without a detailed explanation for any reduction of the loss estimate; prohibits officers and directors of impaired or insolvent insurers from receiving a bonus; and increases the maximum fines that may be levied by OIR by 250%, and 500% for violations stemming from a state of emergency.
  • HB 799 requires a property insurer’s residential rate filing to allow for mitigation discounts which reduce the potential for windstorm losses; and clarifies provisions related to Citizens Property Insurance Corp. flood insurance coverage requirements.
  • HB 881 expands eligibility for the My Safe Florida Home Program administered within the Department of Financial Services; and provides $181.5 million in funding to “harden” the homes of residents.


Citizens takeout approvals

In 2023, OIR through the Citizens Depopulation Program approved insurers to assume 650,399 policies from Citizens, which is more than an 800% increase from 2022. The program allows new and existing insurance companies to assume policies currently covered by Citizens in an attempt to transfer policies back to the private insurance market.

 

author

Louis Llovio

Louis Llovio is the commercial real estate editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.

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