Tallahassee, FL – Citizens Property Insurance policy count has remained steady over the past two years, even as leadership of the state-backed agency continues to express concern that excessive water damage claims in South Florida are driving up premiums.
Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway told board members on Wednesday that efforts the past few years to shed less risky policies into the private market have slowed, which is a sign the “depopulation” efforts continue to work effectively.
The policy count, which peaked at nearly 1.5 million in November 2012, has hovered around 443,000 the past 18 months, Gilway said.
“We’ve really reached a very stable point,” despite increases in litigation in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, Gilway said.
An electronic clearinghouse that compares new and renewing policies with what’s available on the private market has helped to offset an increase of 85,000 new Citizens personal lines policies in South Florida, Gilway said.
On Tuesday, Office of Insurance Regulation spokeswoman Karen Kees said no insurers have reported difficulty covering claims. But she said insurers continue to have difficulty responding to Irma due to litigation involving water-damage claims linked to the practice called “assignment of benefits.”
Assignment of benefits involves policyholders signing over insurance claims to contractors and has become highly controversial in recent years.
Gilway and state Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier have pushed state legislators to address the practice of “assignment of benefits,” which they claim has attracted fraud — particularly in Southeast Florida — and is a root cause for rising policy costs.
Contractors and plaintiffs’ attorneys have countered the process helps ensure damage claims are paid properly.
Gilway said efforts continue to plan statewide roundtables with the public and industry representatives, as requested Sept. 10 by Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting was light; in June, Citizens postponed a vote on rate increases for 2019 until after the November general election.