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My Turn
Other Views from Those in the Know
Sen. Mike Fasano
member, Florida Senate
Citizens’ Insurance Proposes Pricey, Risky "Corporate Welfare"

Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Florida’s so-called insurer of last resort, has amassed a $6.1 billion surplus over the past several years.  These funds were set aside due to relatively quiet hurricane seasons as well as Citizens aggressive efforts to raise premiums through the “back door.”  Too many policyholders are all too familiar with recent attempts by Citizens to take away wind mitigation credits, for example, as a means to increase premiums.

This and other anti-consumer measures -- such as denying coverage for screen enclosures, carports and other structures that are not part of the main building -- have all helped build the surplus on the backs of policyholders. 

Now it has been revealed that Citizens is considering outrageous plans to incentivize private insurers to assume some of its policies. One plan would require Citizens to pay about $850 per policy to a private insurer via a 10-year loan that may not have to be repaid if a major storm hits the state.  Another plan proposes that Citizens pay $116 million to a private insurer for the “privilege” of taking over 175,000 policies.

These are but two examples of corporate welfare at its worst. The so-called insurance reform argument in Tallahassee has been “let the free market prevail.”  Instead, desperate to reduce Citizens’ exposure at all costs, government may end up subsidizing hundreds of millions of dollars in virtually risk-free agreements with for-profit insurers that will only benefit those particular companies.  One of my biggest concerns is the potential for any of these private insurers to accept the huge cash carrot that is dangled before them and then pull out of the state, as so many other companies have done in recent years.

If these or similar plans are adopted, the winners will be private insurance companies who are not interested in writing policies unless they are paid to do so.  The losers will be every Floridian who is currently covered by Citizens, or future policyholders who may not be the beneficiaries of the cherry-picking that will undoubtedly follow if these proposals are approved.

As an arm of the state government, Citizens should not be in the business of enriching the bottom line of for-profit insurance companies.  Rather, Citizens should be using its surplus to lower its premiums and provide protection in the event of a major storm. The policyholders should come first.

Mike Fasano is a Republican state senator from New Port Richey.

Published Sunday, August 12, 2012