Governor calls for special session on insurance.
Get it right this time.
Gov. Ron Desantis has announced that he plans to call a special session of the legislature to deal with the property insurance crisis in the state.
The legislature failed to address the condition of the property insurance marketplace during the regular session, even as cancellation notices were swirling around like leaves in autumn and rates were reaching stratospheric levels, so the governor called a special session earlier this year.
The legislature tinkered around the edges of the problem enough so they and the governor could announce that they had taken major reform steps to deal with the problem, and we thanked them for acting. But the lights had barely gone out in the state house when the cancellations and rate increases continued and the state-sponsored Citizens Insurance continued to grow as policyholders sought insurance coverage after losing it through private companies.
And this was before Hurricane Ian devastated parts of the state with wind and water.
That event exacerbated an already-troubled industry where major players had left the state and property insurance was provided by either smaller and often less-capitalized companies or by Citizens.
The insurance industry had become a hotbed of fraud and litigation, companies were failing with alarming regularity, and there was a general sense among observers of the industry that a major hurricane or multiple hurricanes could cause a total collapse of the Florida property insurance market.
The bills for coverage from Ian are still coming in, so it is not clear what impact this hurricane will have, but the general sense is that the insurance market in the state is broken and the more recent legislative efforts to stave off total collapse have not been successful in returning it to health.
We are certainly not experts in property insurance, but even to a casual observer it is clear that when the state already has the highest home insurance rates in the country, when coverage continues to be dropped, rates continue to rise to levels that make home insurance become increasingly unaffordable, and companies are going belly up, something has to be done.
As Bob Dylan famously wrote, “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”
So now the legislature will go back into session to take another crack at fixing the Florida property insurance market.
Our hope is that this time legislators will address the multiple issues that are plaguing the industry and in coming up with solutions they will work with representatives of insurance companies, insurance agencies, legal firms, citizen groups and others directly involved in the industry.
This will not be an easy task, because each group has its own parochial interest, but we can hope that everyone with an interest in the outcome will recognize that the state cannot continue to watch companies losing money, homeowners unable to pay premiums and/or losing coverage and companies shutting down.
The only real answer is substantive reform that seriously addresses the root causes of the industry’s instability.
The legislature cannot reduce the risk of major storms striking the state, but it can take steps to make homes and businesses more resistant to the impact of storms and steps to lower the level of unjustified claims and litigation costs facing insurance companies. We recognize this is a big job and we hope our governor and legislature are up to the task.