Commentary: Florida's windstorm insurance rates keep rising

May 13, 2009 

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

It's the moment South Florida homeowners dread. The annual windstorm-insurance bill arrives and — cue the creepy sound track from Psycho — you open it to find another huge increase staring you in the face. You ask: How much more of this can I take?

The answer, if you live anywhere deemed highly vulnerable to hurricanes, is that you should be prepared to take a lot more. The Legislature has approved a series of annual increases, and the grim reality is that even though the coming hikes are sure to be painful, lawmakers had little choice under the current windstorm-insurance structure.

Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run program, has a green light to increase rates to 10 percent annually until they are "actuarially sound" – generating enough revenue to cover possible future claims. It can also raise rates 1 percent more each year to recover the cost of payments required to bolster the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, the state's back-up insurance reserve. Private insurers can pass on up to 10 percent of their reinsurance costs to policyholders through through expedited rate filings.

Amid a deep recession, this obviously is a terrible time to increase insurance premiums. However, it was either that or face a crisis if the hurricane season ravages Florida and the state's insurance programs don't have the resources to fill the need – a scenario that remains distinctly possible.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.

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