IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
While it is still too soon to know the exact costs, devastating Hurricane Ian likely caused $53 billion to $74 billion in insured losses, making it one of the most costliest Atlantic hurricanes ever. In a recent op-ed published by the Orlando Sentinel, Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, describes the costs and pressure Hurricane Ian is placing on the state beyond insured losses – a further strain on the state’s already struggling property insurance market.
Prior to Hurricane Ian, consumers’ property insurance rates were skyrocketing and an alarming number of homeowner insurance lawsuits were filed in Florida causing many property insurance providers to leave the state. Additionally, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the state’s taxpayer funded “insurer of last resort,” reached more than 1 million policies, putting all taxpayers at risk of a massive “hurricane tax” if a major storm exhausts their reserves.
Steps taken during a special legislation session in May provided some aid to the flailing property insurance market, and the Governor has wisely called another special session to take place before the end of the year to bolster Florida’s property insurance market.
Wilson’s op-ed outlines some steps that could be taken during this next special session that would set the state’s property insurance market back on the right track, including eliminating the incentive to over litigate, creating competition in the market by welcoming new capital and addressing Citizens Property Insurance’s below-market, taxpayer-subsidized rates.
The full opinion piece is linked here and pasted below.
Hurricane Ian proves crisis in home insurance | Commentary
By Mark Wilson
Oct 22, 2022 at 5:30 am
Florida is in the midst of a swirling storm with a property insurance market that has been described as in free fall. In late August, we marked the 30th anniversary of Category 5 Hurricane Andrew making landfall in South Florida. At the time, Andrew, was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. More recently, parts of Florida were decimated by Hurricane Ian, a strong Category 4 hurricane that will join the ranks of costliest Atlantic hurricanes and unfortunately, one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever strike Florida. Simply put, Hurricane Ian is a crisis on top of a crisis.
As Floridians, we know it’s not if there is a hurricane, but when. This season, like every hurricane season, we must do our part to prepare, to harden our homes and businesses to mitigate potential damage, and plan for the worst outcomes. Catastrophic storms not only bring devastation and suffering to those impacted, but drive-up rates consumers must pay and of late, have only intensified our manmade property insurance crisis. In 2021, Florida generated 7.03% of property insurance claims nationwide but was responsible for 76.32% of the nation’s homeowner insurance lawsuits filed. These numbers are especially alarming considering that until Hurricane Ian, Florida had not had a major storm hit our coast since 2018.
Unfortunately, due to our bottom-five legal climate driving unnecessary litigation and fraud, Florida’s property insurance rates have skyrocketed to three times the national average. Additionally, non-catastrophic claims and the incentive to litigate have led to many property insurers going out of business or reducing their coverage in Florida. Recently, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the taxpayer funded “insurer of last resort,” reached more than 1 million policies, putting all taxpayers at risk of a massive “hurricane tax” if a major storm exhausts their reserves. Prior to Hurricane Ian making landfall last week, Citizens president and CEO Barry Gilway had bluntly stated “the industry is on life support.”
To address this crisis, Gov. Ron DeSantis wisely called a special legislative session that convened in May. The reforms that passed are a significant step forward, but like previous efforts to fix the market, the trial lawyers and fraudsters fight to stay a step ahead of policymakers and reforms, so we have much more work to do.
We need to stabilize the market by restricting fraud and abuse by bad actors and eliminating the incentive to over litigate. We need to create competition in the market by welcoming new capital and addressing Citizens Property Insurance’s below-market, taxpayer-subsidized rates. The ultimate goal is to reduce insurance premiums for hard-working Floridians and protect Florida taxpayers.
Named storms directly hitting our coast exacerbate our manmade insurance crisis and test the limits of our struggling property insurance market. In addition to the destruction of homes, businesses and lives, claims from damage caused by a hurricane lead to increased premiums and possible unexpected payments by taxpayers through “hurricane taxes,” higher payouts by insurance companies, more litigation, and conceivably even more insurers unable to maintain their presence in Florida. This ultimately decreases competition and capital in Florida, furthering the crisis the insurance market is in.
As we begin the long road to recover from this storm and encourage Floridians to do their part in preparing for the next one, it is essential policymakers begin considering additional reforms to stabilize Florida’s property insurance market, incentivize insurance capital coming to Florida, and immediately improve our bottom-five legal climate.
Mark Wilson is president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Stronger Safer Florida is a nonpartisan coalition comprised of businesses, consumer and environmental groups from throughout Florida. This diverse membership seeks to protect consumers before, during, and after catastrophic events impact Florida.