A fact-checking publication known for its thorough examination of claims made by politicians has deemed Charlie Crist’s statement that he once reduced Florida property insurance rates by 10% to be “mostly true.”
Crist, the Democratic nominee for Florida governor, has run campaign ads recently that blamed incumbent Ron DeSantis for the state’s insurance crisis and soaring premiums. “When I was your governor, we reduced insurance rates by 10%,” Crist said, referring to his tenure as governor, from 2007 to 2011.
Politifact, created by the Tampa Bay Times and now part of the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school for journalists, said this week that it had researched the 2007 changes that Crist was referring to. The organization found that it’s not quite as cut-and-dried as Crist’s ad claims.
“Crist’s actions appear to be partially responsible for the 10-percent drop, though he likely attributed too much of an impact to his policies. With that clarification, we rate the claim Mostly True,” Politifact noted in its website article posted Wednesday.
Florida House Bill 1A, which Crist supported and signed into law shortly after taking office in 2007, made a number of changes to the state’s insurance landscape, including:
- The bill expanded the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund that allows insurers to purchase less-expensive reinsurance and pass those savings on to consumers.
- Allowed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to compete with private insurers. It froze Citizens rates, repealed all 2007 rate increases and provided refunds for consumers who have already paid those increases.
- Prevented insurance companies from raising rates without state approval, from dropping policyholders during hurricane season and from delaying payment of claims.
- Provided the first step in eliminating a practice where insurance companies can sell only automobile insurance and not property insurance in the state.
Politifact noted that after the bill was enacted, Citizens’ premiums dropped about 13% in 2008 then rose slightly by 2010. But some insurance authorities noted that the effect on rates also had to do with changes made before Crist took office.
Some of the reduction had to do with 2006 revisions that allowed homeowners to get credits for wind mitigation improvements. Florida regulators in 2006 also barred insurers from imposing certain fees on policyholders, which helped reduce some premiums, Politifact reported.
The report also quoted industry experts who noted that Citizens’ statutory limit on rate increases, begun under Crist in 2009, have skewed the market. In the last year, the state-created insurer has ballooned to more than 1 million policies in force, while six private insurers have become insolvent and others have raised rates significantly.
Crist has said that under DeSantis’ administration, premiums have skyrocketed. Insurers and insurance attorneys have said the spikes are largely the result of Florida’s attorney-fee statutes, which often grant plaintiffs’ lawyers their fees when they prevail in court. Those laws have encouraged fraudulent and exaggerated roof claims and excessive claims litigation, which have cost the insurance industry billions of dollars each year.
Lawmakers and DeSantis this year approved some changes to the law, including a ban on attorney fees in assignment-of-benefits cases. But some insurers have argued that more reforms are needed. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis this week called for an outright ban on AOBs. DeSantis has not commented publicly on that idea.
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