The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee debated GOP Sen. Garrett Richter's sweeping insurance bill for two hours on Tuesday and didn't even make it through all of the amendments filed to the legislation. Most of the discussion focused on provisions relating to sinkhole coverage. At one point, Sen. Mike Fasano, a Republican from New Port Richey, deemed the discussion a waste of time, saying that because the bill drops the requirement that companies offer comprehensive sinkhole coverage, no one will offer it. If the bill passes, it will only require catastrophic coverage. That will help very few people, Fasano said.
"Do you really believe there will be an insurance company in the state of Florida that will offer sinkhole coverage?" he asked.
Richter said yes, companies will determine what type of coverage will give them the best return. "The marketplace will fill the gap," he said.
That theme was repeated several times during the debate, as Fasano tried and failed repeatedly to fight amendments that, among other things, would shorten the nonrenewal notice requirements and require policy holders to share the cost of tests for sinkhole damage.
"The ratepayer wil only benefit if the free market returns," said Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff. "We have the most regulation and we have some of the highest premiums. What we're doing is not working."
Fasano said this bill won't help: "The suggestion thrown out there that we're going to have all of this capital coming, all of these insurance companies coming back, you're fooling yourselves."
After the meeting, Fasano said changes need to be made to stop fraudulent and frivolous sinkhole claims. But this bill, he said, is deadly to consumers. A bill like this, he said, would never have come forward under governors Jeb Bush or Charlie Crist, but with uber-business friendly Rick Scott leading the state, legislators are feeling emboldened with a bill that is overly generous to the insurance industry. "It's scary," he said.