2007 Industry Outlook
Property insurance takes center stage.
Lower the state hurricane catastrophe fund's buydown.
Allot more money for mitigation on top of the $250 million from last year.
Eliminate the Panhandle exemption to the tougher statewide building code.
Protect CAT fund balances from being raided by the Legislature for other needs.
Ready to Boom
For the insurance industry, the general public and politicians, any discussion of the year ahead begins and ends with hurricane insurance. The certain outlook for the industry is that the state will examine controlling property insurance costs by taking an expanded role in assuming risk against hurricanes. The extent of that role -- and how to pay for it -- will depend on legislative sausage-making either in this month's special session or the regular session.
After $36 billion in insured damage in Florida for the eight-hurricane 2004 and 2005 seasons, property insurance is in crisis. The number of property insurers writing in the state fell to 167 last year, down from a high of 225 in 1998. Last year, 52 of those 167 asked for premium increases of more than 25%, in part to cover their own higher costs for reinsurance.
The state's putative insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance, has become the largest insurer in the state with 1.2 million policies.
"The people of Florida are pretty upset about the situation they're in," says Tallahassee-based William Stander of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. "We don't have a magic plan. There's no carburetor that's going to let you get 100 miles to the gallon that we're keeping in the vault some place."
The state is expected to make it easier for insurers to tap its catastrophic fund.
The state will likely OK more than the $250 million appropriated last year to inspect homes and help harden them to withstand hurricanes.