Homeowners hit with dramatically higher insurance premiums at the hands of new private insurance carriers would be able to return to the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp., under a bill proposed by a pair of House Democrats.
But the prospects of the bill (HB 289) already look dim in the Legislature given that four months ago Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the exact same bill because he worried it would lead to more people returning to the state-run insurance company. Scott has applauded the depopulation of Citizens, a process that has shrunk the carrier from holding more than 1.5 million policies in 2012 to under 600,000 now.
Still the Democrats say they are hoping Scott reverses himself on the issue because the measure passed unanimously in both the House and Senate back in April before Scott vetoed it. State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, said Scott has changed his position on other big issues over the years, and hopes this will be another one.
“We’re hoping the governor flip-flops on this issue too,” Rodriguez said.
The new bill, like the one previously vetoed, would allow a person to return to Citizens if a private carrier that agreed to take on a policy charges more than 10 percent higher premiums than originally estimated. They could also return if a private carrier increases the rate more than 10 percent per year during 36 months after the policy is first shifted out of Citizens.
But while the bill is nearly identical, it has one key missing ingredient so far: Republican support. None of the co-sponsors of the House bill that passed in April have signed up to support the bill by Rodriguez and Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg.
Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, said he absolutely agrees that the governor was “mistaken” to veto the previous bill in June, but expects any new bill to come later in the legislative process after more discussion.
“I think it will come back up again,” Artiles said.
The state has been pushing to reduce the size of Citizens as more private insurance companies have returned to Florida’s market. The more policies in Citizens, the greater the financial risk for the entire state. In the event Citizens cannot cover all of its policy owners’ damage, all property owners with insurance can be subject to an assessment to cover costs.
When Scott vetoed the bill in June, he cited the burden Citizens is on all taxpayers when it is too large. He specifically objected to allowing people to return to Citizens.
“This perpetuates reliance on Citizens, which increases the potential for burdensome assessments on Florida families,” Scott said in vetoing the bill.
Some consumers have complained about how Citizens size has been reduced. Many have said notices warning them that they were going to be shifted to a private carrier were unclear and looked like junk mail. Others complain that premium estimates were far lower than what they were charged months later by private insurers once they were out of Citizens and could not return.