Senate Democrat proposes insurance rebate program for low-income seniors

by | Nov 7, 2023



  • Sen. Lauren Book proposed a bill on Tuesday to help low-income seniors in Florida with an insurance rebate program, offering a 10 percent rebate on homeowners’ insurance for those over 65 and earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • If adopted, the program would be funded by the state’s unallocated general revenue for the next Fiscal Year, subject to appropriation.
  • Book’s proposal comes at a point of inflection in the state’s insurance landscape, with conflicting viewpoints emerging on what property owners can expect in terms of future premiums. 

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Lauren Book filed proposed legislation on Tuesday that would establish an insurance rebate program for low-income seniors through the Department of Financial Services (DFS).

Under the bill’s purview, once a complete application is received and verified, DFS would be required to issue a rebate check for an amount that equals 10 percent of the homeowners’ insurance paid. To qualify, applicants must be Florida residents, at least 65 years old, and earning an income equal to or less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

“In the face of Florida’s ongoing property insurance crisis, we’re fighting to provide relief to low-income seniors from skyrocketing premiums,” said Book. “Our state economy is booming, but seniors in my district are on the brink of losing their homes because they cannot afford property insurance. That is just not acceptable.”

If adopted, the program would be funded by the state’s unallocated general revenue for the next Fiscal Year, subject to appropriation. The legislation also grants DFS the authority to adopt any rules that are necessary to administer the program. An attempt to reach DFS for comment on the legislation was not immediately responded to.

“This crisis not only threatens the financial security of all Floridians but also undermines the safety and stability of our local communities,” continued Book. “This program is not just about addressing an insurance crisis; it’s about safeguarding the well-being of our most vulnerable Floridians, ensuring they are not left behind.”

Book’s proposal comes at a point of inflection in the state’s insurance landscape, with conflicting viewpoints emerging on what property owners can expect in terms of future premiums.

Senate Banking and Insurance Chairman Jim Boyd recently told reporters that he does not anticipate major property insurance changes in the upcoming 2024 legislative session. Instead, lawmakers plan to give more time for last year’s wide-ranging reforms to manifest results.

Among those changes were efforts to shield property insurers from costly lawsuits and move policies away from Citizens Property Insurance, the state’s insurer of last resort, into the private market. Michael Yaworsky, the state Insurance Commissioner, and Tim Cerio, CEO of Citizens, have indicated that they see signs of improvement in the industry.

But despite the optimistic outlook from lawmakers, Boston-based risk modeling firm Karen Clark & Company (KCC) issued a report in October that concluded that Florida’s legislative changes can’t possibly be enough to drive down premiums. The report argues that four primary factors affect premium costs: hurricanes, other major weather events, inflation, and excessive litigation. However, the state’s legislative reforms can only impact excessive litigation. There is little that state lawmakers can do, the report argues, to control the weather or the national economic picture.

The report also argues that factors like reinsurance costs, rising construction costs due to material and labor shortages, and already existing excessive litigation in Florida will continue to drive costs higher for insurers.

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