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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…St Augustine Record: “Atwater: Bottlenecking in insurance claims process needs addressing”


Contact: Ashley Carr
(850) 529-4614
“Atwater: Bottlenecking in insurance claims process needs addressing”
St. Augustine Record
Story by Jake Martin
December 3, 2016
HERE to read the full story

Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew were at the forefront of discussion Friday as insurance company executives and field experts joined local and state officials in St. Augustine for a post-mortem of the 2016 hurricane season, which came to a close Wednesday. The two storms marked the end of Florida’s decade-long hurricane-free streak.
The roundtable talk, held at Flagler College, was hosted by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier. Topics included the financial impact of this year’s hurricane season, the federal flood insurance program, and helping people navigate the insurance claims-filing process.
Altmaier said he had no concerns with the financial abilities of insurance companies to cover the claims from the two storms. He also said just because a claim was not paid doesn’t mean it was denied, citing instances such as where the value of damage claimed came in under the deductible.
Atwater, referencing the data for Matthew, said he had concerns about the gap between private and federal closure rates. He said only 8.1 percent of federal claims were closed out, compared to 83 percent of private claims, and expressed a need to diagnose the disparity.
“That would look to be a lag behind what’s being accomplished in other places,” he said.
Kevin Brown, senior specialist for the National Flood Insurance Program, defended the progress made.
He said estimates as of Thursday night indicated there were 2,409 claims from Hermine with a 73.27 percent closure rate and $38,000 average payment, and 5,211 claims from Matthew with a 34.41 percent closure rate and $34,000 average payment.
“We believe that we are on point with closure rates,” Brown said of NFIP’s performance.
Even with the updated estimates, Atwater wasn’t convinced.
“There is clearly a problem in the production line, somewhere,” he said. “There is a breakdown that is occurring along this pathway that is leaving a tremendous amount of people in terrible anxiety and frustration that we need to figure out.”
Tasha Carter, director of the Division of Consumer Services, said of the 375 calls received by her division regarding Matthew, 205 were complaints or service requests requiring the insurer’s involvement to resolve the issue. Although 79 percent of those complaints were still open as of Friday, 80 percent of the calls had come in within the last two weeks.
Atwater, referencing the number of hands involved in the claims process, asked members of the roundtable to consider questions like “Where is the bottleneck?” and “What is happening?”
Brown said he understands there are areas of concern and individuals with specific, special needs, but that he believes the process is “working as intended.” He said the handful of concerns and complaints referred to him were “resolved within a few days.”
“With every storm, with every line of business, there are some people who need hand-holding,” Brown said.
Atwater said his department would be following up with NFIP to identify and diagnose issues and put together a plan moving forward.