CITIZENS SINKHOLES…Yet Another Look!

In my last blog on the Citizens sinkhole rate increase I commented on the fact that Senator Mike Fasano, consumer advocates, the media and the former state Insurance Consumer Advocate (ICA) Sean Shaw, were hurting Florida consumers; the ones they claim to be advocating for. One of those on my list took time to respond and clarify her position. Her name is Ginny Stevans and because her comments and my response go right to the heart of what’s taking place, I’ve reproduced both below.

I must confess…since I haven’t heard back from Ms. Stevans, in my own delusional way, I’m thinking maybe my response had an impact. “Maybe she see’s my point” I thought.  “Maybe she’s rethinking her stand.”

Don’t laugh! It could happen. If Ms. Stevans truly cares about consumers and the facts are the facts…it’s possible. In fact, I’m naive enough to think some others on my list (excluding Senator Fasano at this point) might do the same; again, assuming they allow themselves to digest the facts.

And so I’ve made overtures to my friend Chip Merlin, the founder of the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA). He also employs Sean Shaw, who has gone from advocating for consumers to advocating for public adjusters.

I know this is a challenge; after all, public adjusters are the only real winners in this deal.  But, my prayer is that Chip will do as he’s done when we’ve worked together in the past; simply examine the evidence a little more closely to see if there’s room for a different conclusion. Maybe ask a few questions. Seek a few clarifications. Try to find out, as I have, what’s best for the majority of consumers.

This rate increase helps a huge majority of Citizens policyholders and private consumers. And, even the few who wish to continue their unjust enrichment aren’t really being hurt by not buying optional coverage that, under SB-408, now requires every penny of sinkhole claim payment to be spent on repairs. As I said in my last blog…

There is both logic and irony in the suggestion that the reforms of SB-408 might reduce the future payout for sinkhole losses and thus the need for such a large rate increase. The irony is that, since those reforms include requiring claim dollars to be spent on repairs, those who bought it, the 50,000, are likely to drop the coverage even if the indicated rate need was a reduction.

While we wait to see if Chip Merlin’s mind is made up or not, and thus whether Sean Shaw may rethink his stance as well here, again, is the exchange between myself and Ms. Stevans. Enjoy.

Mr. Scott,
Just to clarify for your records I have NEVER sided with Florida’s Consumer Advocate! In fact I have complained LOUDLY in the past how I feel this APPOINTED position often tends to air on the side of the insurance industry! Also to clarify “Where were they” when speaking of rate hearings. I HAVE been to rate hearings, testified several times in Tallahassee, brought hundreds of people to Tallahassee, and spoken with, written, and called not only members of the House and Senate, but the former Governor (the new one does not see consumers), and two former Insurance Consumer Advocates. I have ALL ALONG believed that what HAS happened to consumers WOULD happen. I fought against the initial dropping of sinkhole policies and making it a “choice” as they say. What is going on in Tallahassee is disgusting and we are run by lobbyists and the insurance industry! All I can say is watch out because the people are waking up and so their time will soon be up too! We voted them in and I can guarantee we can vote them out!
 

My response was as follows:

 

Ginny, thanks for reading my blog and taking the time to respond.

As you suggested, I’ll update my records to reflect that.. you “never” agree with the consumer advocates office. Of course, I never said that you always agreed either and, for your records, please note: I don’t always agree with the insurance industry.

My question on “where were they?” was…where were you in responding to Sean Shaw’s office when it advocated that Citizens sinkhole losses should not be part of the 10% cap on Citizens rates? All the legislature did was implement his (or rather, his offices) recommendation in order to benefit 80% of Citizens policyholders. Keep in mind that only 1 in 5 sinkhole alley policyholders buys this coverage from Citizens. Why do you want to pay for that? Why do you want the other policyholders of Citizens and the state to pay for that?

Wouldn’t it be more consumer friendly to advocate that those few who want something, that a majority don’t want, pay for it themselves? I understand why a Public Adjuster or trial attorney might want people to buy sinkhole activity coverage really cheap, but…why would someone advocating for consumers want a huge majority to pay more so they could; especially when they are forced to pay it as an assessment on coverage they were forced to purchase by a lender?

By the way, I agree with you on one point… like you, I knew this would happen to consumers too. But, it’s the result of previous administrations who found it easier to take from that majority in order to unjustly enrich a minority who wanted an “elective” coverage–and, of course, to curry favor with public adjusters enriched by the claim payments.

You and I may also agree that people, as you said, are “waking up”. Last year’s legislation is testament that they now understand the unfairness of subsidizing vacations and mortgage payoffs with money paid to repair stucco cracks.

Again, thanks for the comments.

 

##end##

Comments

  1. Yes Mr. Scott I would say you might be delusional in thinking that I might agree with you. Sorry for the delay in responding, my family and I have been very sick with the flu. That being said I guess I will have to again clear up my position. First of all I do TRULY care about consumers and have nothing to monetarily gain from my position, as do many others. It is absurd to me that you could even write that this increase helps a huge majority of Citizens policyholders. IF you would do your homework you would find out that MOST (if not ALL) consumers that HAD sinkhole coverage WANTED and NEEDED that coverage! It was FORCEFULLY removed from their policies several years ago and made (in THEIR words) “OPTIONAL” and at a HUGE increase to purchase it. When that happened many (if not ALL) consumers that “OPTIONALLY” dropped that coverage did it so they could afford to keep some type of coverage verses not being able to afford total coverage on their home. They were fooled into believing that “catastrophic” coverage would be adequate. In fact we know that “catastrophic” coverage covers nothing unless your home is condemned, falls into the ground, AND is deemed un-inhabitable! That only happens in LESS then 1% of sinkholes in Florida. That being said sinkholes can create thousands of dollars of damage that is NOT covered by catastrophic coverage and there are banks and mortgage companies that REQUIRE full-coverage. So WHO does a 2000% rate increase help? So don’t say for one minute that people do not WANT this coverage and that it is “optional” because it isn’t for everybody. By the way do you live in Pasco???? The “logic” that suggests that SB408 will reduce future sinkhole losses is simply because no one will be able to afford the coverage, therefore unable to file a claim. As for those who are REQUIRED by their banks or mortgage company I foresee increased foreclosures, as again who can afford a 2000% increase? Can you? I also foresee many homes being abandoned once the damage is too much for the homeowner to fix out of pocket and with no coverage. People were not only duped but they have had their feet held to the fire and have had to make adjustments in their insurance coverage so they can keep their homes AND eat! DISGUSTING!

    I was at the sinkhole Rally this past Tuesday and met the new Consumer Advocate. We had a long conversation and again I do not agree with all her points and feel that she is and can be swayed by the insurance lobbyists. That I believe is the biggest problem with the Consumer Advocate, it should NOT be an appointed position but done by a vote of the people. After all should the people not be able to chose WHO they want helping them in Tallahassee, or someone who chooses who will best work in THEIR interests? I guess you could say I have little trust of who our elected officials are getting to help us.

    Let me end by asking you this….maybe I am wrong and you just have an abundance of money so it might not matter to you. Could you live in a house that you had cracks in your floors that raised the slab up 3 or 4 inches, all or most of your windows unable to be opened or closed, your front door won’t open, your ceiling collapsed in one or more of your rooms, you can put hour hand outside and wave “HI” to your neighbors through the crack in your wall. Think this is cheap to fix? Ok fix it…then 6 months later it is back and now is worse. Ok, maybe sell….OH but who would want that house now? I sure wouldn’t! Have you ever been in a sinkhole house? Seen the damage?? Also please be aware that NONE of what I listed above is covered under catastrophic and can cost 100k to 200k to fix…..pocket change for some but several years pay for others! Now WHO do you care about???? C’mon!

    I don’t understand how ANYONE can take the position you have on this bill and see it being a good thing, unless of course you have something to gain from the insurance industry. THAT is my position! Hope it came through loud and clear this time!

  2. Chip, good to hear that you will take another look. In fairness, so will I…perhaps we can talk privately by phone or in person, confirm some facts and make sure were on the same page. Your thoughts are welcomed.

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