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Sha'Ron James

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Citizens defends proposed rate hike after questions raised

News Article

September 3, 2015

News Service of Florida

The chief risk officer for Citizens Property Insurance has sent a letter to the state insurance consumer advocate defending a proposed rate hike under review by the Office of Insurance Regulation.

John Rollins, chief risk officer for the state-backed insurer, sent the letter Wednesday, two days after Insurance Consumer Advocate Sha'Ron James raised concerns about the rate proposal.

James on Monday wrote a letter asking Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty to "strongly consider" the large amount of reinsurance purchased by Citizens before regulators make any decision on the company's requested 3.2 percent rate hike.

Reinsurance is essentially backup coverage purchased by insurers, and it can help protect policyholders across Florida from having to pay assessments for storm damages on Citizens-covered property.

Rollins wrote that "Citizens has secured enough reinsurance, at historically low rates, to blunt the possibility of assessments even in a benchmark severe event, known as the '100-year storm.'

Better yet, much of this $6.9 billion in protection kicks in more often for smaller storms, such as a named storm with a 10 percent chance of striking each year, and it covers the case of multiple storms in a season.

For perspective, just four years ago, consumers would have paid over $11.5 billion in assessments after a 100-year storm."

In her letter Monday, James asked McCarty to look at whether Citizens' reinsurance program "exceeds the level of adequacy needed to fulfill its obligation to its current policyholders and to the consumers of the state of Florida."

The proposed policyholder rates for 2016 would vary by county and depend on a property's location, the home's style, and the type of policy.

Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway contended last month that a "disturbing" rise in water-damage claims in South Florida has driven the need for the proposed rate increase.