TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) has approved two new controversial requests by Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the state’s so-called insurer of last resort, in its bid to get skyrocketing claims and litigation costs under control.  The nonprofit insurer 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 and CEO Barry Gilway talks about this carrot-and-stick approach on the latest episode of The Florida Insurance Rounduppodcast hosted by former Deputy Insurance Commissioner Lisa Miller, available here: Gilway sat down with 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.

“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 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.

Also joining Lisa Miller 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 AOB concerns.

“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, Citizens will face some of its policyholders at a public hearingbeing 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.

You can listen to The Florida Insurance Roundup“Citizens Managed Repair Program” here:

The Florida Insurance Roundupfrom Lisa Miller & Associates, was created to bring Florida residents and seasoned insurance professionals alike the latest developments in Property & Casualty, Healthcare, Workers’ Compensation, and Surplus Lines insurance from around the Sunshine State. Subscribe to The Florida Insurance Roundup podcast here.

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