Florida’s Citizens Delays Launch of Clearinghouse

Florida’s state-backed property insurer officials announced they are delaying the launch of a new web-based clearinghouse in order to ensure it is working efficiently and to allow more private insurers to participate.

Citizens Property Insurance President Barry Gilway told state lawmakers that he has decided to move the launch date from its original target of January 2 until January 27, 2014.

“When we introduce this we want to be absolutely sure it will be successful,” said Gilway. “By moving this date by three weeks it gives us the opportunity to do more user testing and have a greater degree of confidence.”

Citizens President Barry Gilway said the delay would provide additional time for more user testing and allow more insurers to participate at the clearinghouse's initial launch.

The centerpiece of this year’s property reforms, the clearinghouse has been highly anticipated as a means to promote competition in the private market while reducing the size of the current one-million member Citizens.

As designed, applicants for Citizens coverage will first enter the clearinghouse web-portal where private insurers can review the applications and decide to offer the prospective policyholder coverage.

Applicants who receive an offer from a private insurer with similar coverage at rates within 15 percent of Citizens’ rates will no longer be eligible for Citizens coverage.

Initially, only new applicants will be funneled through the clearinghouse. However, the expectation is that Citizens policies up for renewal will likewise flow through the clearinghouse starting in the second quarter of next year.

Gilway said from a technological point of view the clearinghouse is similar to that of Healthcare.gov, which is the portal for individuals seeking health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“The premise is the same,” said Gilway. “We are taking a single entry, shipping it to multiple companies and then in real time getting answers back.”

As a result, Gilway said that Citizens has had to work with each private insurer to resolve application issues while also working with regulators to protect consumers’ privacy concerns. Gilway noted that the delay does have a benefit to consumers. Namely, more insurers will be participating at the clearinghouse’s initial launch than planned.

Though some 18 insurers have signed-up to participate in the clearinghouse, only three insurers, United Property & Casualty, Florida Peninsula, and Safe Harbor, were slated to be ready by the January 2 launch date. By moving the date to January 27, up to four other insurers could join that list including, Ark Royal, Bankers, Heritage, and People’s Trust.

“There will be far more opportunities for consumers in terms of the choices they will receive,” said Gilway.

Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Chair David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) told Gilway that while he understands Citizens’ need for more time to workout the intricacies of the clearinghouse, any delays pass the January 27 deadline might not be as well received.

“I don’t know if some of us won’t be so forgiving if it comes to January 27 and it is not there,” said Simmons. “The state of Florida is depending on you doing this.”