Report Card on Citizens Questions Some Outside Contracts

By Michael Adams | February 11, 2013

Florida regulators have released a report into Citizens Property Insurance Corp. that says the state-backed company failed to sufficiently negotiate outside vendor contracts and review travel and other expenses. At the same time, the report gives the insurer high marks for responding to policyholders’ claims.

Regulators undertook the market conduct report late last year at the request of Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami-Dade). At the time, Artiles took exception to the insurer’s now-discarded plan to loan private insurers part of Citizens’ surplus in exchange for removing policies from the insurer.

The report covers from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2012.

It focuses light on Citizens’ procedures for soliciting the services of outside vendors such as legal counsel and other administrative functions.

Under Florida law, contracts offered for services costing between $2,500 and $25,000 must be made through informal bids or written or verbal quotes. Most contracts exceeding $25,000 require competitive bids unless they are related to an emergency or statutory need. Also, contracts exceeding $100,000 must be approved by the insurer’s board of directors.

As of June 2012, the insurer had contracted with 489 outside vendors for a total of $604 million. Between June 2012 and July 2012, the insurer received 3,261 purchased orders totaling nearly $107 million.

Roughly 20 cents per every premium dollar is paid for services provided by outside vendors.

Regulators, however, reported that in some instances there was a large difference between the amount issued by low bidders for contracts and the amount the insurer paid the vendor it used. The report calls for a greater emphasis on negotiating the lowest price possible.

While not delving in detail into the earlier controversies over travel and expenses, regulators noted that while the insurer had policies in place, it did not have specific expense policies. Since then, Citizens has adopted state travel guidelines and placed more controls over its expenses.

In addition to reviewing Citizens’ expenses, the report also providesinsight into the insurer’s workload on complaints and claims handling.

Regulators largely give Citizens high marks for handling consumer complaints, which as a percentage of its 1.3 million policyholders is relatively minor. During the time period studied, the insurer only received 2,969 complaints, which averages about 1,000 per year. Most of those complaints were responded to within two days and resolved.

When it comes to claims, the insurer paid out more than $1 billion on claims numbering 76,997. Specifically, it paid out $281 million in the second half of 2010, $600 million in 2011, and $147 million in the first half of 2012. Of those claims, 75 percent were resolved within 60 days.

Out of the 164 claims files reviewed, there were only 14 where claims handlers failed to follow written guidelines.

The market conduct report is the second such report of Citizens since the insurer became embroiled in controversy following allegations of executive misconduct, excess travel and other expenses, and misuse of funds. Earlier this year, the state’s Inspector General released a report that was far more critical of the insurer.

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Insurance Journal West February 11, 2013
February 11, 2013
Insurance Journal West Magazine

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