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Westcott Says Do Your Homework Before Switching

6/4/2013

By Nick Evans, WFSU State News

Residents throughout Florida are receiving notices that a private insurer is taking over their state run home insurance policies. Homeowners are not required to make the switch, though.

While state-backed Citizens Insurance shifts policies into the private sector, critics are expressing concern about the quality of new coverage. Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott said consumers still have options.

“Consumers should bear in mind that they have the option to reject the takeout. There’s a thirty day window before and after and while it does take them being proactive, they may wish to do so and remain with Citizens,” Westcott said.

Policyholders staying with Citizens Insurance are subject to a policy holder surcharge in the event of a major hurricane. And according to Citizens, private coverage is often more comprehensive.

Westcott suggested consumers use the sixty day window to get to know their prospective insurer and then decide what to do next.

“Well guess what,” Westcott said, “When the wind blows, and we have a hurricane, they’re gonna get a lot of calls, so how responsive they are during that takeout process and the questions that they answer for a consumer I think are a good indication of how good they’re going to be when it’s time to file a claim.”

Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation has tools and information to help residents compare rates. Also, Citizens Insurance has information on the entire program - known as depopulation - on their website.