TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The state’s property insurance crisis is costing many Floridians thousands of dollars a year in increased premiums.
Florida has a new insurance commissioner, but can he do anything to help?
8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi has been following the crisis for months, and spoke to those familiar with the matter on Michael Yaworsky’s first day on the job.
Florida’s insurance commissioner is responsible for approving or denying rate hikes. The position is considered to be one of the hardest jobs in the state. It had been vacant since December.
On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis nominated Yaworsky for the role. He will serve as Interim Commissioner until he gets final approval from the Financial Services Commission, which should happen soon.
Yaworsky will be in charge of regulating insurers, at a time when so many companies have failed or left the state. Yaworsky is no stranger to the Office of Insurance Regulation. However, there have been mixed reactions to his appointment.
For nearly five years, he served as Chief of Staff to Florida’s Former Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier. In December, Altmaier stepped down the day after lawmakers approved sweeping changes to the market in special session.
State Rep. Hillary Cassel, a Democrat from Broward County, is a freshmen in the house.
As an attorney, she’s spent years representing homeowners suing their insurance companies.
“I have concerns with whether or not he’s going to be able to .. independent review of really what’s wrong,” Cassel said. “There’s an extensive amount of data that is collected by OIR that really hasn’t been reviewed nor has it been provided.”
8 On Your Side also spoke with Hillsborough County Commissioner Michael Owen.
“I think the national search is a mistake. I think we needed to pick someone in Florida that understands the insurance woes that we’ve had in Florida,” Owen said.
Owen said his own rates have gone up $300, but he thinks Florida is now headed in the right direction.
“Talk about some of the things that homeowners can do, rather than get crown molding maybe you’ll need to pay for a new roof that’ll help your policy out. We need to do more workshops, we need to talk about resilience and mitigation and just discuss some things that we can do to drive down the insurance,” said Owen.
8 On Your Side also obtained a statement from Joseph Petrelli, the president of the ratings agency Demotech.
“Demotech, Inc. wishes interim Commissioner of Insurance Mike Yaworsky good luck in his new
role. As we have since 1996, we support the Florida property insurance marketplace by
assigning Financial Stability Ratings ® and would be pleased to share our three decades of
experience and expertise on the critical role of catastrophe reinsurance on the business models of Florida focused insurers.”
We are also hearing from the organization that represents roofers.
“The Restoration Association of Florida is hopeful that the new incoming OIR Commissioner will clean up the poor habits of the old regime and actually do what the office is supposed to do, regulate insurance companies. The old regime was rubber stamping double digit rate hikes without any financial analysis from the insurance company. Where are the public hearings of all rate increases over 15%? You guessed it, they don’t exist. SB 76 in 2021 stated that all insurance carriers would be transparent in their financial releases, breaking down their expenses by Jan 1, 2022. What did David Altmaier do? He writes to all carriers in a letter dated in April of 2022 instructing them to wait until next year…!? All so they can hold back the data from consumers/voters/policyholders, while they passed 2 more reforms on property insurance (May 26th for SB 2D and Dec 16th for SB 2A), where nothing in either bill reduces rates for policyholders of Florida. I feel like all this a scam and our own OIR was a major player in all this. At the end of the day, no rate reductions and much less policy coverages for the homeowners. Truly a sad situation. Although we have little hope for major change, time will tell,” said spokesman Richie Kidwell.