- Florida House panel approves insurer accountability bill, despite concerns it lacks stronger provisions found in the Senate version.
- CFO Jimmy Patronis supports the legislation, emphasizing the need to help policyholders and increase accountability in the claims process.
- Critics argue that the bill may not provide enough relief for homeowners and could give insurers the upper hand in denying claims.
A Florida House panel has approved a bill aimed at increasing insurer accountability, but critics argue that it lacks some of the stronger provisions found in a similar Senate bill. Despite these concerns, the bill passed unanimously. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis expressed support for the legislation, acknowledging the difficulties in balancing the interests of consumers and insurers.
“Insurance consumers throughout Florida need our help right now. Historic storms, bad attorneys, bad adjusters, and frankly, bad insurance companies have driven up rates and driven out competition within Florida’s property insurance market,” said Patronis. “The Legislature worked overtime last year to rein in frivolous litigation and fraud, and this year, we’re working together to inject accountability into the claims process to support policyholders.”
The House Commerce Committee unanimously passed the bill (PCB COM 23-04), though Rep. Rita Harris, an Orlando Democrat, made it clear she preferred the Senate version (SB 7052), which passed a Senate committee last week.
The Florida Justice Association, which represents trial lawyers, accused the House committee of gutting the accountability provisions contained in the Senate bill.
For example, the House version doesn’t bar the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) from waiving reviews of filings made by insurance companies for changes in the coverage they provide to homeowners when the insurers have violated the state insurance code within the last three years. The House version also omits requirements for carriers to submit their claims handling manuals to OIR. The House version also leaves out a ban on insurers canceling or not renewing a homeowner during a declared state of emergency – regardless of the cause of damages claimed.
But the House bill does have some teeth, though: increased fines for insurers that mishandle claims; time extensions for military members serving overseas to file claims, new quarterly requirements on OIR to detail its enforcement actions against insurers, and a ban on bonuses paid to insurance executives at companies that are financially struggling.
Patronis believes the changes made last year, combined with the new accountability legislation working its way through the House and Senate, will give his office more power to help struggling homeowners.
“With the recent changes in law, there will be shift from excessive claims litigation to leveraging vital Department services to allow my office to better assist policyholders during their greatest time of need following a storm,” Patronis said. “I have no doubt that this legislation will help empower policyholders so they can get back on their feet as soon as possible after a loss.”
In 2022, Florida saw seven insurers collapse due to financial insolvency, as litigation costs, increased claims and the skyrocketing cost of reinsurance protection forced them out of the Florida market. In response, Florida legislators enacted a series of measures intended to stabilize the property insurance market. While insurers needed relief, critics of the new changes contend that they grant insurers an advantage in rejecting homeowners’ claims and have failed to achieve the intended decrease in rates.