THE FLORIDA INSURANCE ROUNDUP PODCAST

The Florida Insurance Roundup from Lisa Miller & Associates, is your program on the people, issues, and regulations shaping Florida’s Insurance Market. Lisa, a former deputy insurance commissioner, brings you the latest developments in Property & Casualty, Healthcare, Workers’ Compensation, and Surplus Lines insurance from around the Sunshine State. There is a Listener Call-In Line for your recorded questions and comments to air in future episodes at 850-388-8002 or you may send email to LisaMiller@LisaMillerAssociates.com

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Episode 7 – Irma’s Claims Challenge

Florida homeowners, businesses, and other property owners have been assessing the damage from Hurricane Irma and begun filing claims with their insurance companies. Those claims are expected to number in the hundreds of thousands from the first major hurricane to hit Florida in 12 years.  How are insurance companies responding?  How will they be able to meet the challenges of such an onslaught of claims?

Joining host Lisa Miller from the road are the president of American Integrity Insurance Company in Tampa, Bob Ritchie and professional claims adjuster Jason Evans, CEO of Evans Claims Service, in Huntsville, Texas.  They explain on this podcast how claims are being handled, why Hurricane Irma has stressed the supply of adjusters needed to handle them, and the ability of Florida’s insurance companies to pay claims.  They also share advice with policyholders and other consumers hit by damage and reveal how insurance industry best practices are being put to the ultimate test with Irma.

Bob Ritchie, President & CEO, American Integrity Insurance Company

Jason Evans, CEO of Evans Claims Service

Show Notes:

“There is no question that the industry has not been better capitalized, both in terms of the primary insurance carriers, but also the supporting carriers, including the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, Citizens Property Insurance, and the world’s reinsurers,” Ritchie said on the podcast.  He noted that because the hurricane weakened in the hours before landfill, “this is a high-frequency, high number of claims, and much lower severity, much lower total incurred losses event than what it would have been if it had stayed on the west coast and scraped the entire coast.  What makes Irma different is that the entire peninsula was faced with a direct hit,” Ritchie said.   He believes damage estimates in the range of $25 billion are accurate.

“Florida is much more a wind and water event than Hurricane Harvey, which was predominantly a flood event” said Evans, whose adjuster teams have worked Harvey claims and are now in Florida assessing Irma claims.  Evans said Irma has stressed the supply of adjusters to handle claims, especially coming so soon after Hurricane Harvey, but that there are enough adjusters to handle the volume of claims.  “When you have two storms of this magnitude, it stresses the supply of adjusters undoubtedly…but you have companies emergency licensing adjusters and bringing in additional people to settle these claims…we’ll get ahead of it and get everyone’s claim taken care of in a timely fashion.”

The program discusses the technological advances that are making the claims process easier and efficient for both policyholders and insurance companies.  “But nothing replaces the tender loving care at the first notice of loss,” Ritchie pointed out.  “It’s a people business.  When you have a crisis, people want to talk to a live person.  Where technology is important is that everyone is equipped to take the first notice of loss within a few minutes and to reassure the customer that they have coverage.  You have one chance to form the right first opinion.”

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

** The Listener Call-In Line for your recorded questions and comments to air in future episodes is 850-388-8002 or you may send email to LisaMiller@LisaMillerAssociates.com**

Episode 6 – Citizens Managed Repair Program

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation recently approved two first-of-their-kind programs designed to help the state’s property insurer of last resort – Citizens Property Insurance Corporation – control the rapidly rising claims and litigation costs among its current 450,000 policyholders. Citizens will now be able to limit coverage on non-weather water claims to $10,000 unless the policyholder agrees to use Citizens’ approved contractors in its new managed repair program.  The company can also waive deductibles on such claims as a further incentive for its policyholders to use the managed repair program.

Citizens President & CEO Barry Gilway sat down with host and former deputy insurance commissioner Lisa Miller on the eve of last week’s OIR decision to outline the reasoning behind the program and the reforms still needed in Florida’s property and casualty insurance marketplace.  Also joining Lisa on the podcast is Cam Fentriss, Legislative Counsel for the Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors Association.  She and Gilway found common ground on some key Assignment of Benefit concerns whose costs, Citizens says, is driving its requested statewide average 6.7% homeowners policy hike and an 8.1% commercial lines increase.

Barry Gilway, President & CEO, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation

Cam Fentriss, Legislative Counsel, Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors Association

Show Notes:

“We’re not going to solve the problems until we get legislative reform on the Assignment of Benefits issue to curb some of this ridiculous litigation that is taking place,” Gilway said on the podcast.

Citizens is slated to lose $85 million this year because of the exponential growth in non-weather related water losses, such as leaking pipes, and isn’t the only insurance company suffering such losses in Florida.  The insurance industry has warned for the past five years about increased use of Assignment of Benefits by contractors who submit inflated claims on all sorts of work and then file lawsuits if insurers deny or underpay the claims.

“The Office of Insurance Regulation and Citizens Insurance have acted where the legislature has so far failed to act, to bring measures of responsibility and accountability to an out of control Assignment of Benefits system that is causing double-digit property insurance rate increases on Floridians,” said host Miller afterward.  She predicts that other insurance companies will now seek the same newly approved coverage cap from OIR.

OIR also approved Citizens’ requested policy changes that will now require contractors to submit damage reports and repair estimates, participate in appraisals by Citizens’ adjusters, and answer questions under oath.

“We understand the need for managed repair programs because we know there are abuses out there…so long as they’re done in a way that the contractors in the program are determined on an objective basis, we’re comfortable with that,” said Fentriss.

This Wednesday (August 23, 2017), Citizens will face some of its policyholders at a public hearing being held by OIR in the heart of “AOB Abuse Alley”: Miami-Dade County.  There, Citizens’ proposed rates would go up by the maximum 10% for the second year in a row.  It says AOB costs are behind its requested statewide average 6.7% homeowners policy hike and an 8.1% commercial lines increase.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

** The Listener Call-In Line for your recorded questions and comments to air in future episodes is 850-388-8002 or you may send email to LisaMiller@LisaMillerAssociates.com **

Episode 5 Part Two – Growing Florida’s Private Flood Market

Aided by new state legislation this year designed to encourage a robust private flood insurance market in Florida, the number of companies writing flood policies has nearly doubled in the last year, while Congress works this summer to reform the federal government’s beleaguered National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Meanwhile, new technology is making structures more resilient than ever to floodwaters, allowing those insurers to more accurately price risk and compete with the NFIP.

Mike Graham of Smart Vent Products has been working with modeling firms that are part of the new technology and shares with Lisa in this program how flood vents, dry proofing, and other mitigation options are lowering flood risks and with them,  policy premiums by up to 80%.  Just as wind mitigation years ago helped lower homeowners and wind insurance rates, today’s flood mitigation techniques can lower private flood insurance rates, making flood coverage more affordable – and available – for everyone.

Show Notes

Actuarial experts, disaster modelers, and third-party vendors are utilizing new technology to better predict and price flood risk.  Models are important because the NFIP and parent FEMA don’t use models – they use only maps.  But models help differentiate the flood risk between a property owner in Zone X with mitigation vs. another person in Zone X without mitigation – with premiums priced accordingly by the growing number of private flood insurers entering the marketplace.

Mike Graham of Smart Vent Products shares his experience on some of the newest mitigation technologies and practices, including vents that allow flood waters to wash into – and back out of – structures, minimizing damage.  A study of a two-square mile area in New Jersey that suffered $1.2 million in flood claims losses showed through modeling how pre-mitigation would have eliminated the structural damage and reduced the entire area’s flood height by one inch, which while it doesn’t sound like much, equates to a $20,000 cost avoidance per claim according to FEMA.  Mitigation measures also help eliminate the need for retention ponds.  FEMA estimates that for every $1 spent on pre-event mitigation, $4 is saved in insurance claims.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode

** The Listener Call-In Line for your recorded questions and comments to air in future episodes is 850-388-8002 or you may send email to LisaMiller@LisaMillerAssociates.com**

Episode 5 Part One – Growing Florida’s Private Flood Market

Just in time for the start of hurricane season, the Florida Legislature has made it even easier for private insurance companies to write flood coverage in the Sunshine State.  The private market is seen as a much-needed alternative to the debt-ridden, increasingly expensive, federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).   Even more so for Florida consumers, who are largely subsidizing the program, receiving just $1 in claims benefits for every $4 paid in premiums.

Host Lisa Miller, a former Florida deputy insurance commissioner, breaks down how private carriers are being encouraged and we hear state Senator Jeff Brandes’ ideas on how Florida’s private market can work hand-in-hand with the NFIP.  With less than 90 days remaining until the beleaguered NFIP expires, the U.S. House is making progress toward a series of reforms designed to tackle the programs $24.6 billion in debt and improve access and affordability for homeowners.  One fix would expand mandatory flood insurance to most U.S. homeowners – just like the Affordable Care Act on the health insurance side – to subsidize the NFIP going forward.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

The Listener Call-In Line for your recorded questions and comments to air in future episodes is 850-388-8002 or you may send email to LisaMiller@LisaMillerAssociates.com

Episode 4 – Legislative Session Roundup

The Florida Legislature ended its 2017 session this week three days late – and without passing most of the major insurance-related bills.  These include Assignment of Benefits reform, Workers’ Compensation reform as mandated by the state Supreme Court, and No-Fault Personal Injury Protection automobile insurance reform.  What went wrong?  Host Lisa Miller, a former Florida deputy insurance commissioner, takes the guest microphone in this program to explain what happened, share the backstory on some of the negotiations, and offer her insight on what’s needed to make these policy reforms a reality in next year’s legislative session.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Episode 3 – Bad Faith

The Florida Legislature is once again trying to decide what to do with the state’s 45 year-old No-Fault Automobile Insurance coverage law – more specifically, how to handle the persistent fraud that keeps increasing and with it, automobile insurance rates.  But one component that’s rarely talked about is the Bad Faith doctrine – and the third-party vendors some say who are manipulating it to win bigger legal settlements from insurance companies.

David Bronstein and J.D. Underwood – two noted South Florida insurance attorneys on opposite sides of the issue – argue the merits of Bad Faith as it relates to consumer rights and insurance company profits.  They reveal in this program how just the threat of a Bad Faith case and its related costs are driving up premiums for all Florida insurance consumers.  They share their insider perspective on how those looking to make a bigger buck rather than a reasonable claims settlement are hurting the availability and affordability of automobile, as well as homeowners insurance in Florida.

As the legislature considers bills replacing No-Fault PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance with mandatory Bodily Injury insurance (BI) – where Bad Faith claims are more prevalent than PIP claims and can result in large verdicts beyond the policy coverage limits –  insurance companies want added provisions to require mandatory civil remedy notice by third-party claimants to level the playing field.

David Bronstein

David Bronstein of Bronstein & Carmona

J. D. Underwood

J.D. Underwood of Florida Advocates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Episode 2 – The Abusive Roofer

They come to your house peddling offers of a free roof, courtesy of your insurance company.  Regardless of whether you’ve suffered serious enough storm damage to warrant a total roof replacement, these scam artists have you sign an “AOB”– an Assignment of Benefits – that takes away your rights and benefits of insurance claims proceeds and puts it into their pockets.  That’s what happened to Kellie Clark, a ninth-grade math teacher in Pinellas County, Florida.  Ms. Clark shares her story of being misled into signing an AOB and then becoming the target of bullying and harassment – including threats of foreclosure action – when she refused to sign over the insurance check.   It’s a growing problem in Florida that has caused double-digit rate increases and whose solution is still eluding the Florida Legislature.

Kellie Clark

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Kellie Clark Timeline of AOB with Simbro Group

Simbro Group Letter of AOB

 

 

 

 

Episode 1 – Beating Back Flood Rates

Although Florida accounts for nearly 40% of the National Flood Insurance Program policies, it remains a huge donor state to this federal monopoly, with property owners here paying $4 in premiums for every $1 in claims received. Maria Wells, President of Florida Realtors, has been a driving force behind efforts to encourage a private flood market in the Sunshine State. Ms. Wells shares her advocacy efforts in this podcast and how reauthorization of NFIP this year in Congress is being linked to further incentives to create a robust private market alternative that will benefit property owners and taxpayers alike.