TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services) – Every year since 2007, Florida homeowners have been paying to shore up the state’s hurricane fund. Now experts in the industry are making the case the fund is sound and the charges amount to annual hurricane tax.
Lowering the collections could slow rising rates, which are expected to be one of the coming legislative session’s top issues.
In 1993, Florida set up its catastrophic hurricane fund following Hurricane Andrew. The fund is a reinsurance asset to help companies pay claims after big storms.
“The Cat Fund has cash, lots of cash,” said Security First CEO Locke Burt.
In 2009, lawmakers added a rapid cash buildup feature to the fund. Burt, called the cash buildup an annual hurricane tax on homeowners that has outlived its purpose.
“There is enough cash in the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to pay a hundred percent of all of the claims paid by the Cat fund since it was created in 1993,” said Burt.
Eliminating the rapid cash buildup could save every policy holder in the state $150 a year.
State Senator Jim Boyd pushed through insurance reforms last session. He said tackling Cat Fund changes may be too much for lawmakers this year, but he called the 20, 30 and 40 percent rate hikes seen by consumers unsustainable.
Instead Boyd said state lawmakers are working on language to go after unscrupulous contractors who incentivize consumers to file claims.
It was a change made last year that is being challenged in court.
“I don’t think businesses that are kinda deceiving the public and using bribes, if you will, to get things done should be protected by that,” said Boyd.
Both the Insurance Company CEO and the State Senator said they believe changes made last year are starting to bear fruit by reducing the number of lawsuits being filed. Boyd indicated we’ll likely see small changes to insurance regulations this coming year, not a major insurance overhaul.
At the same time, the rising premiums are starting to become a building issue for Democrats who want to be Governor.