The debate over how to reform Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has been a years-long and arduous political battle. Despite its original mission to act as Florida’s insurer-of-last-resort, Citizens became former Gov. Charlie Crist’s instrument of populist politics du jour, and consequently grew to be the state’s largest insurer due to its artificially suppressed rates. It has taken the Florida Legislature years to even begin to reverse those ill-conceived policies from the Crist era.
The main impediment to reform has been the loud opposition to increasing Citizens rates, which would organically address most of the problems the state-run entity faces. Whenever there is legislation up that would increase Citizens’ premiums even nominally–increases that would put them somewhat closer to their private market counterparts–telephone lines and email in-boxes are overwhelmed with opposition. As such, legislators are hesitant (at best) to support such reforms.
One organization that has been on the forefront of promoting reforms to Citizens has been Associated Industries of Florida. As one of the state’s leading pro-business organizations, it understands the risks the current system poses on Florida’s business community. As such, they prefer gradual, methodical increases in rates over the enormous post-hurricane assessments that could likely come quickly and severely, and do great harm to the state’s economy.
So to address the concerns of many legislators, they recently released an interactive map that shows exactly the percentage of Floridians in each House and Senate district who are insured by Citizens. This information has taken Tallahassee by storm, and even some legislators who have historically opposed Citizens reforms have realized they haven’t necessarily been representing a majority of their constituents on this issue.
The data affirms that 77 percent of Floridians are NOT enrolled in Citizens, but are on the hook for the 23 percent who are.
“This is the first time we’ve looked at the data this way, and it’s very telling. More than two-thirds of residents in a majority of Senate and House districts don’t have Citizens as their property insurer. Yet, these same homeowners who are dutifully paying their annual insurance premiums are expected to shoulder the financial burden for the other third not paying their fair share. Many of these Citizens policy holders do not even live in Florida,” said Tom Feeney, the former congressman and Florida House speaker who now serves as AIF’s president and chief executive officer.
- Of 40 total Senate districts, more than 2/3rds (27) have nearly 70% of the households subsidizing lower premiums for the remaining 30% insured in Citizens.
- Of a total 120 House districts, 86 (or 71%) have 30% or fewer households insured in Citizens and subsidized by the rest.
- Not one single Senate district has more than 54% of its households in Citizens.
These are definitely interesting data that should make some legislators reassess their position that has forced a majority of their constituents to cover those who don’t pay their fair share.