TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Despite back-to-back insurance-friendly reforms, Florida is still struggling to keep big insurance companies operating in the state.
8 On Your Side has confirmed that effective Tuesday, Farmers Insurance is dropping tens of thousands of policies.
Investigator Mahsa Saeidi explains how this may affect you, and when.
On July 11, Florida’s Insurance Commissioner Michael Yaworsky sent a letter to Farmers Insurance.
In the letter, obtained by 8 On Your Side late Tuesday, Commissioner Yaworsky writes he’s “disappointed by the hastiness in this decision and troubled by how this decision may have cascading impacts to policyholders.”
He’s demanding Farmers give “due regard to policyholders during this transition.”
However, the transition is moving forward.
8 On Your Side has learned Farmers is not going to renew roughly 100,000 auto, home, and umbrella policies.
A Farmers spokesman says the move is “necessary to effectively manage risk exposure.”
Yaworsky is in charge of policing insurers. His office has declined interviews, but in a statement, they say they’ll “work closely with Farmers… to ensure consumer protection.”
State regulators say that if you get a non-renewal notice, you should contact your “agent immediately to seek alternate coverage.”
The question: When, if ever, will the reforms help homeowners?
Twice last year, Florida lawmakers passed sweeping property insurance reforms meant to stabilize the market and keep insurers in the state. But, they’re still reducing their footprint or leaving altogether.
Former State Sen. Jeff Brandes supports the reforms. While in office, he pushed for many of the changes now in effect.
“So, we’ve always said it’s going to take 18 to 24 months,” Brandes said.
He said he expects three to five more companies to exit the state.
“Insurance looks back, it doesn’t look forward,” Brandes added. “There is still a ton of uncertainty in this market place. Investigators are still very cautious about putting new capital to work in Florida and that’s why companies like Farmers are pulling out.”
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is not pleased.
Before Farmers Insurance made it official on Monday, Patronis tweeted “If that’s true my office is going to explore every avenue possible for holding them accountable.”
8 On Your Side asked the CFO’s office what Patronis intends to do in order to hold the company accountable.
“I’ve always said that when big decisions are made on insurance — the policyholder is rarely in the room — and unfortunately Farmers Insurance proved me right,” Patronis said in a statement released Tuesday evening. “I have asked my team to put their heads together in holding Farmers Insurance accountable to Florida policyholders. I want additional scrutiny on this company.”
Patronis said his Division of Consumer Services will conduct a deeper dive at complaints, and if it reaches a certain threshold, a market conduct investigation will be triggered that could lead to fines.
“It is our expectation that if Farmers cancels any policies, all prorated amounts must be returned to policyholders and we are currently working with the Florida Association of Insurance Agents to explore methods for a bulk transfer of policies,” the statement reads.
Patronis said there’s still time for Farmers to change its mind, and he encouraged the company to reach out to his office.
“I sincerely believe that with today’s actions, Farmers Insurance is well on its way to becoming the Bud Light of insurance,” Patronis said.
Now, if this is your insurance company, know that Farmers Insurance must give you 120 days notice before they drop you.
Pursuant to state law, the notices will start going out in October, so homeowners will have time to prepare for this transition.
Farmers offers insurance under several brands. A spokesman says they will keep providing insurance through subsidiaries including Bristol West®, Foremost SignatureSM, Farmers GroupSelectSM, Foremost Choice® and Foremost®-branded policies.
Here’s the company’s full statement:
“We have advised the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) of our decision to discontinue offering Farmers®-branded auto, home, and umbrella policies in the state. This business decision was necessary to effectively manage risk exposure. Farmers offers insurance through several different brands, and this decision applies only to policies issued through our exclusive agency distribution channel. There is no impact to 70 percent of policies currently in force for customers in the state, including Bristol West®, Foremost SignatureSM, Farmers GroupSelectSM, Foremost Choice® and Foremost®-branded policies. Such policies will continue to be available to serve the insurance needs of Floridians. Affected customers will receive notifications detailing when their coverage will end and will be advised of options for replacement coverage.”
Earlier this week, Farmers also announced they were cutting back business in California due to “record-breaking inflation, severe weather events, and reconstruction costs.”
If you have a story, tip or comment, email Mahsa at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.