Florida’s governor has named the insurance department’s former chief of staff as new insurance commissioner, filling a position that has been vacant since the former commissioner resigned in late December.
Michael Yaworsky, now vice chair of the Florida Gaming Control Commission, was chief of staff for Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier from 2017 to 2022, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office said in a statement Friday. Altmaier stepped down in December but did not give a reason, at least publicly, and has yet to announce any future plans.
Yaworsky will serve as interim insurance commissioner until he is ratified by the state Financial Services Commission.
“He’s the safe choice,” said former Florida state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who has been outspoken about Florida’s property insurance woes. “This way, they don’t have to do a nationwide search. They don’t have to try and explain the Florida insurance market. He already has some grasp of the market and what’s going on.”
Yaworsky, a lawyer with a bachelor’s degree from from Florida State University and a law degree from Samford University, may have little experience managing an entire regulatory agency. But he does have years of experience as legal counsel and advisor in state government in Florida and Georgia.
For a few years, until 2017, Yaworsky was legal counsel for the Georgia insurance commissioner and advised the commissioner and staff on policy. He also performed some administrative and legal duties. Before that, he was general counsel to the Georgia Senate’s president pro tempore.
In Florida, Yaworsky also held positions in state government under former governors Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush, and was chief of staff at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, according to Florida Politics news site. He was named by DeSantis to the gaming commission in late 2021.
“Mike understands how to engage all stakeholders,” said Lisa Miller, former deputy Florida insurance commissioner, now a consultant and lobbyist. “He is a master at communicating, making sure no details are left out of a conversation.”
Yaworsky takes the helm at the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation at a crucial time for the Florida property insurance market. State lawmakers in December approved a major reform bill, limiting a major cost driver – claims litigation. Senate Bill 2A also gave OIR new examination and reporting duties.
Brandes and several insurance industry insiders have said that one more piece of the puzzle remains to be put into place: a state-sponsored reinsurance bridge that would help insurers manage soaring prices and tightened conditions from the private reinsurance market – at least until lower litigation costs are realized from the 2022 reforms. Without that bridge, Yaworksy this year may have to juggle the insolvency or rehabilitation of several more carriers, Brandes said.
Besides Altmaier, two other top officials with the office have stepped down in recent months, leaving something of a gap in leadership there. The department also has been understaffed, delaying some needed regulatory actions and scrutiny of ailing carriers, lawmakers have said. Florida’ chief financial officer, Jimmy Patronis, whose department houses the OIR, said last week that the new commissioner will now be able to “build out their team for life and health, property-casualty.”
Brandes said he hopes the new team will be more proactive and assertive in addressing Florida’s insurance problems than the previous leadership was.
Yaworsky “is the safe choice. But Altmaier was the safe choice, too,” Brandes said Sunday.
Miller predicted a significant change in attitude at the OIR under Yaworsky’s leadership.
Top photo: Yaworsky (Florida Gaming Control Commission)
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