HomeInsuranceInsurance firms deny Florida claims as rates go even higher

Insurance firms deny Florida claims as rates go even higher

Most Florida homeowners know this state’s insurance market is a mess.

Rates keep rising. Many citizens can’t even find private insurance. And some of those who found temporary relief in Florida’s state-run insurance program have also found themselves looking at increases of up to 300% if they go back to the private market.

Somehow, though, there’s now even more bad news for homeowners.

The Tampa Bay Times reported last week that Floridians were also getting their claims denied at the highest rate in America, saying: “Floridians filing a homeowners insurance claim had the lowest chance in the 50 states of getting a check from their insurer in 2022, with more than a third of claims going unpaid.”

So we have sky-high prices and rock-bottom claims payments. It’s hard to imagine a more rotten combination.

The Times piece cited a report from Palm Beach’s Weiss Ratings. Its data showed subsidiaries of State Farm and Allstate had the largest percentage of unpaid claims.

The companies argued things weren’t really that bad and that Weiss’ report didn’t detail how many policyholders voluntarily abandoned their claims or the number of claims still open at year’s end. But company founder Martin D. Weiss told the Times that, any way you slice it, “The big picture conclusion is that the insurers in Florida are stiffing their customers.”

You’d think that would be a concern to this state’s elected leaders.

Yet on the same day the Times released its report, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ staff was busy tweeting about drag queens, theatrical productions they found offensive and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

This has been this state’s M.O. for the past four years. Industry experts warned lawmakers that an insurance crisis was coming. But the Republican politicians who control every lever of power in Tallahassee focused on culture wars.

They’ve staged two special sessions on insurance but only nibbled around the edges, giving the industry protection from lawsuits and access to more subsidized “reinsurance” from the state. The changes pleased insurance lobbyists, but rate reductions for homeowners haven’t followed. Instead, problems are getting worse.

Just last month, the board that controls the state-run Citizens Property Insurance program voted to raise rates by 14% — the highest amount allowed under state law.

If that happens next year, it will have a two-fold effect: Not only will it raise rates for many of the 1.2 million Floridians covered by Citizens, it also will force many onto even pricier private plans, since Citizens requires homeowners to move onto private plans that are within 20% of Citizens’ (soon-to-be-higher) prices. Basically, that 14% hike represents a statewide raising of the price bar.

Forget trickle-down rate reductions. If anything, this hike for Citizens will trickle up throughout Florida.

Things have gotten so bad in Florida that many homeowners have decided to forgo insurance altogether. The Miami Herald reported that more than 10% of Florida homeowners are going “bare” — a higher percentage than any other state. I think this is one of the most under-discussed problems in the state, a Category 5 economic disaster just waiting to happen.

Florida’s sky-high rates affect renters too, since costs are usually passed along to tenants.

After insurance ‘reform,’ Floridians still face high bills, 100% rate hikes, go ‘naked’ | Commentary

Many of Florida’s insurance problems are to be expected. This state is a magnet for hurricanes, dangling between two increasingly warm bodies of water that are continuing to rise.

Of course our insurance costs should be higher than they are in Montana.

But there are things lawmakers could do to make living here more affordable. The problem is that the solutions are costly and complicated.

Basically, Florida has three options:

1) Invest even more in Citizens, expanding it so that it becomes something like Medicare for property insurance, a state-run insurance program most everyone can access.

2) Use tax dollars to subsidize the market even more, either by even heartier underwriting of reinsurance or through direct subsidies. (I’d argue such investments should only be considered in exchange for guaranteed rate reductions and greater transparency from the industry.)

3) Do nothing. And just allow rates to continue to skyrocket.

Options Nos. 1 and 2 are expensive and probably unpopular with various groups. (Though I guarantee you: Many of the people who oppose “government-run insurance” would also be the first to sign up for the lower rates.) So lawmakers have largely opted for No. 3.

They offered a bit of relief for the insurance companies in the special sessions — enough to get some new companies into the market — but without making the companies deliver rate reductions. As a result, prices have continued rising, prompting DeSantis and GOP lawmakers to distract by talking about anything and everything else, whether it’s Joe Biden or preferred pronouns.

Last month, when DeSantis was asked about the 14% rate hike at Citizens, he responded that things are tough all over, saying he’d just spent more than $50 to feed his family of five at McDonald’s.

It was an odd non sequitur of a response. Of course nationwide inflation is a pocketbook problem everywhere. But nationwide inflation didn’t make Florida’s insurance rates raise higher than anyone else’s. That’s a Florida-specific problem.

More importantly, nobody has to buy $50 worth of McDonald’s, whereas most homeowners do have to have insurance unless their house is paid off.

Also, dude, try the value menu.

Personally, I think most every homeowner in Florida would be willing to buy Republican legislators a Big Mac if these guys would take a break from the culture-warring and take this insurance issue seriously.

Because really, we get it: You guys don’t like Bud Light, transgenderism, Disney World or Gavin Newsom. But your “war on woke” isn’t helping anyone in Florida pay their bills or stay in their homes. That takes hard work and tough decisions.


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