State Farm Reverses Course, Stays In Florida

February 2, 2010

The Office of Insurance Regulation of the State of Florida released a statement about State Farm Insurance Company’s intent to leave the State of Florida. Commissioner Kevin McCarthy issued a consent order that ends the pending litigation between State Farm and the Insurance Commissioner’s office concerning State Farm’s plan to leave Florida’ property insurance market. State Farm will now continue writing business in Florida’s residential insurance market, and Citizens Property Insurance dodges a bullet that could have been fatal.

The Florida legislature established Citizens Property Insurance, the high risk pool, in 2002, in response to insurance companies that either went bankrupt, cancelled or pulled out of Florida because of repeated hurricanes. So, Citizens Property Insurance places the Florida taxpayers at risk for residential losses. Since 2002, storm after storm have struck Florida, nearly bankrupting Citizens. And Citizens is only one big storm away from ruin. So, when State Farm, the largest residential property insurer in Florida announced that they were leaving the state, the Insurance Commissioner’s office panicked.

This allowed State Farm to figuratively bend the Commissioner over the couch and have its way with him. Prior to State Farm’s announcement that they were leaving Florida, the company requested a rate increase of over 65% which was denied by the Commissioner. But rather than wave goodbye to Florida’s largest insurer, the Commissioner has granted the smaller…yet generous…rate increase of 14.8%. And, it is allowing State Farm to get rid of 125,000 policies that are arguably the highest risk policies they have on the books.

So, not only does State Farm get a rate increase on all policies, but it gets to keep its most profitable business and shove the riskier business off onto the taxpayers of the State of Florida. And for Citizens, 125,000 risky policies is better than 860,000.

You’ve got to admire that kind of moxy. State Farm, being the largest insurer in Florida, took full advantage of their market position and finally showed the State of Florida who is the boss. The regulators and the Florida legislature had little choice and no options but to give in to State Farm’s demands. The press release issued by the Commissioner’s office was a pitiful attempt to save face and spin the story to look like the Commish’s office was protecting Florida’s property owners.

Don’t you wonder if the terms of the consent order was what State Farm wanted all along?

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