On its face, that might look a little embarrassing to folks insisting rates at
the insurer of last resort are so bargain-basement low they make private
competition all but impossible. Gov. Rick Scott has pushed for higher Citizens
rates, calling them "artificially low."
Industry officials caution that rates on the website are averages over a wide
area and can be misleading. Not every insurer listed may be writing new business
at all - let alone in coastal areas where many Citizens customers tend to be.
And rates near the coast are often far higher than those inland.
"Citizens has most of the coastal risk in Palm Beach County, and that's why its
rates average out higher," said Lynne McChristian, Florida representative for
the Insurance Information Institute. "Relaying the average rates in counties
with large coastal exposure has a tendency to present a more distorted cost
structure than you'd find in a county with largely inland properties."
Still, she said, the site can "point people in the right direction" for checking
The website is intended to help consumers get started in their own research,
state officials said.
One good thing about the site is that "it's alerting customers there may be
other options out there," said Katie Webb, lobbyist for the Florida Property &
Casualty Association. Keep in mind some agents from insurers no longer writing
much new property business in South Florida, like State Farm and Allstate, may
be able to put some customers in Citizens but can be limited in other carriers
they work with, she said. Some smaller Florida insurers may work through
different agents, she said.
Citizens remains Florida's largest insurer with 1.5 million customers, including
141,000 in Palm Beach County. The next biggest, Universal Property, had less
than 7o,000 customers in the county as of June 30.
Florida Peninsula Insurance Co. of Boca Raton, No. 3 in the local market with
about 18,000 customers, has agreed to take up to 45,000 Citizens customers
statewide in an ongoing takeout program. CEO Roger Desjadon said it's fine by
him if consumers want to use the website to shop around.
"If they have questions, they should call us," Desjadon said.
Even for an older home - built before 2001 -at least 10 competitors have lower
average premiums than Citizens in Palm Beach County, the state site shows.
Direct comparisons of rates in coastal areas can tough to find, though at a
workshop in July some Citizens rates surprised the company's own chairman by
being higher than those of competitors.
Example cited at the workshop: A customer with a 35-year-old home in coastal
Palm Beach County, insured for $225,000 and lacking storm-resistant discounts,
pays $3,390 a year with Citizens, but at least one unidentified private insurer
was offering coverage for $3,177.
Citizens staffers said in July a more comprehensive rate comparison was under
way, but company officials did not respond this week to a request to provide
"I think it is important to remember that the rating territories in Palm Beach
are probably going to vary dramatically," state insurance consumer advocate
Robin Westcott said.
Still, said state Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, the rate comparison
seems a little startling considering how often private insurers say they can't
compete with Citizens.
"It seems to kind of fly in the face of the logic they use," he said.
Citizens vs. the competitionA state website shows 24 out of 27 competitors have lower average rates than state-run Citizens in Palm Beach County for a home built in 2005. At least 10 insurers show lower average rates than Citizens for a home built before 2001. Industry officials warn the numbers can be misleading because they are averages over a wide area, and rates tend to be higher near the coast where many Citizens customers are.
The example below shows rates for a $150,000 home constructed before 2001 in
Palm Beach County, both without credits for storm-resistant building features
and with maximum credits.
Company Name /Rate with no wind mitigation /Rate with maximum wind mitigation
1. Florida Family Insurance $2,806 $ 1,825
2. Frontline Homeowners/First Protective Ins. Co. $ 3,045 $ 1,539
3. Fidelity National Property & Casualty Ins. Co. $3,199 $ 1,633
4. Tower Hill Prime Ins. Co. $ 3,500 $ 1,356
5. Southern Fidelity Ins. Co. $ 3,606 $ 2,262
6. Tower Hill Preferred Ins. Co. $ 4,112 $ 1,762
7. American Traditions Ins. Co. $ 4,167 $ 1,955
8. Florida Peninsula Ins. Co. $ 4,258 $ 2,176
9. Southern Oak. Ins. Co. $ 4,373 $ 2,416
10. St. John's Insurance Co. $ 4,479 $ 2,485
11. Citizens Property Insurance Corp. $ 4,693 $ 2,741
Source: Florida Office of Insurance Regulation,
Biggest property insurers in Palm Beach County 1. Citizens Property Insurance Corp. 141,089 29.9%
Insurer /Policies In Force /Local Market Share
2. Universal Property & Casualty 69,856 14.8%
3. Florida Peninsula Insurance Co. 18,009 3.8%
4. State Farm 14,886 3.2%
5. United Property & Casualty 14,499 3.1%
Source: Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, as of June 30, 2012
1. Citizens Property Insurance Corp. 141,089 29.9%