U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, has continued to needle incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis for his handling of the property insurance crisis in the state.
At a press conference Wednesday, Crist, himself a former governor, said DeSantis is “the single worst governor on property insurance Florida has ever had,” according to state news reports.
“Hundreds of thousands of Floridians are getting dumped by their insurance companies,” Crist said, as reported by Florida Politics and Florida Phoenix news sites. “Thousands more at are at risk of losing their coverage. Premiums are through the roof and they have literally doubled. And now Floridians have no where else to go, but Citizens.”
DeSantis called a special session of the Legislature in May to pass a package of bills designed to partially alleviate some of the deep problems facing the Florida insurance market. The bills aim to reduce fraudulent roof claims, bar plaintiffs’ attorney fees in assignment of benefits cases, and allow insurers to pay for roof repairs not full replacement, in many claims.
Crist said Wednesday that the session was “really special” for the insurance industry and did not do enough to help reduce premiums for Florida homeowners. But many in the industry have disagreed, arguing that the reforms have done little to rescue struggling insurers or to reduce one-way attorney fees that many believe have caused claims litigation to explode in the state in recent years.
Crist did not offer details on his own plan for reforming Florida’s distressed insurance market.
“Insurance needs to make a profit. I get that,” he said. “But we can’t let them gouge our fellow citizens in the process, and double their rates in just a four-year period.”
“Insurance companies should pay what they owe to their customers,” Crist added when asked about claims litigation. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t be in court in the first place. If they would just do the right thing they wouldn’t have that problem.”
Crist said that when he was governor in the mid-2000s, his special session lowered insurance rates. But many in the industry have said that those changes, encapsulated in House Bill 1A in 2007, have exacerbated some of the problems and have artificially kept Citizens’ rates lower than primary insurers in much of the state, helping to reduce market competition.
A recent study by the Florida State University risk management and insurance program noted that Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is no longer a last resort but is now a major competitor in the homeowners insurance market. The insurer this year became the largest in the state – by a third.
“The lasting effects of HB 1A (and the Citizens “glidepath”) can still be seen today as Citizens rates remain below actuarially adequate levels in many areas of the state,” reads the FSU paper.
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