Citizens Insurance ordered to trim rate hike proposal

Florida insurer of last resort asked for 13.3% rate increase

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Regulators have ordered the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to revamp — and trim — proposed rate increases.

Florida Insurance Commissioner Michael Yaworsky signed an order Friday that took issue with parts of a Citizens rate proposal that included increasing rates by 12% for homeowners with the most common type of policies.

The order, posted on the state Office of Insurance Regulation website, directed Citizens to “calculate new, reduced, overall average statewide rate increases for the rate filings” covered by the order.

“We are reviewing the final order and will submit a revised set of recommendations, as requested, based upon OIR’s findings and directives,” Michael Peltier, a Citizens spokesman, said in an email Monday.

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Amid explosive growth in its number of policies, Citizens this year asked the Office of Insurance Regulation for approval of an overall 13.3% rate increase, with 12% hikes for “multi-peril” policies on primary residences.

A 12% increase would be the maximum allowed this year for those policies under a state law that limits how much Citizens can raise premiums.

Citizens officials contend rate increases are needed, in part, because Citizens broadly charges lower rates than private insurers. They say Citizens’ lower rates undercut long-running state efforts to push policies into the private market. Also, they argue higher rates are needed to make Citizens more actuarially sound.

Friday’s order said the Citizens rate proposal emphasized “overall actuarial soundness, instead of individual actuarial soundness.”

The order pointed to questions about whether the proposed increases might not be justified in some areas of the state, saying that the Office of Insurance Regulation “finds that due to the inadequate support as it relates to Citizens being non-competitive (with private insurers) … rates should be subject to a modified policyholder capping methodology.”

That methodology could lead to a range of increases up to 12% for multi-peril policies on primary residences — or, possibly for some policyholders, no increases, according to the order. Under a law that passed last year, rates could increase up to 50% for homes that are not primary residences.

Citizens originally proposed rate increases to take effect Nov. 1 but later changed the date to Dec. 9. The Office of Insurance Regulation agreed with the change. Friday’s order gave Citizens 30 days to revamp the rate proposal.

In a separate order Friday, the Office of Insurance Regulation approved a series of rate proposals for commercial policies, including condominium-association policies. As an example, a proposed average statewide increase of 9.2% was approved for condominium-association multi-peril policies. That will take effect Oct. 1.

Citizens has seen massive growth during the past three years as private insurers have dropped policies and carried out large rate hikes because of financial problems.

Citizens had 1,363,606 policies as of Aug. 11, according to information posted on its website. As an illustration of the growth, Citizens had 486,773 policies on July 31, 2020; 661,150 policies on July 31, 2021; and 994,456 policies on July 31, 2022.

State leaders have long sought to shift policies out of Citizens into the private market, at least in part because of financial risks if the state gets hit by a major hurricane or multiple hurricanes.

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About the Author:

Jim has been executive editor of the News Service since 2013 and has covered state government and politics in Florida since 1998.