US lawmakers are enacting changes aimed at satisfying insurers’ needs, not homeowners

With Florida’s insurance industry rocked by insolvencies and companies withdrawing from the storm-plagued state, lawmakers largely are enacting changes aimed at satisfying insurers’ needs, possibly at the expense of homeowners.

Among the steps poised to be finalized: Steering another $1 billion in taxpayer-money into a reinsurance fund that companies can tap if they have trouble paying claims.

According to Tallahassee, during a May special session on insurance, lawmakers put $2 billion of Florida taxpayer money into reinsurance for companies, who complain about the private industry cost of such insurance for insurers.

But seeming to acknowledge that insurance customers will take a hit under the legislation, GOP leaders have added to the insurance session other measures advanced Monday more certain to help at least some Floridians.

A tax relief package for homeowners who lose property in a hurricane and a toll credit program pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to ease commuter costs also are poised for approval this week.

But insurance is the main focus.

Democrats, vastly outnumbered in the House and Senate, argued that the proposed industry fixes unfairly fell heavily on customers. The insurance measure was approved 9-3 by the Banking and Insurance Committee in a party line vote, with Democrats opposed.

Republicans argue that the industry-friendly approach is needed to keep companies writing policies in Florida and stabilizing a market staggered most recently by Hurricane Ian, which has already spawned $10.2 billion in insurance claims. It was one of the worst storms in Florida history.

Florida accounts for 7% of the nation’s insurance claims, but 76% of lawsuit costs involving claims.

Estimates point to whatever level Ian’s claims eventually reach as an enormous threat to the finances of insurers and, in turn, Floridians.

by Yana Keller