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State regulators allow private insurers to take Citizens policies

FILE - The bridge leading from Fort Myers to Pine Island, Fla., is seen heavily damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Oct. 1, 2022. On Friday, Dec. 9, Florida lawmakers released a massive property insurance bill that would create a $1 billion reinsurance fund, seek to reduce insurance lawsuits and force more people out of the state-created insurer of last resort even if it means property owners end up paying more. The bill was filed less than three days before lawmakers begin a special session on insurance, property tax relief for Hurricane Ian victims and reducing tolls for frequent commuters. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Gerald Herbert
FILE - The bridge leading from Fort Myers to Pine Island, Fla., is seen heavily damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island, Fla., Oct. 1, 2022.

As homeowners continue piling into the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., regulators this week approved proposals that could lead to private insurers pulling as many as 184,000 policies from Citizens starting in October.

Insurance Commissioner Michael Yaworsky signed orders Monday approving the proposals by Slide Insurance Co., Safepoint Insurance Co., Southern Oak Insurance Co., Florida Peninsula Insurance Co. and Monarch National Insurance Co.

Slide received approval to assume as many as 100,000 Citizens policies, by far the largest amount, according to the orders posted on the state Office of Insurance Regulation website. Safepoint could take as many as 30,000 policies; Southern Oak, 25,000 policies; Florida Peninsula, 19,000 policies; and Monarch, 10,000 policies. Each could start pulling policies from Citizens on Oct. 17.

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

But Citizens’ policy count has skyrocketed over the past three years, as private insurers have dropped customers and raised rates because of financial troubles. As of Friday, Citizens totaled 1,345,403 policies, compared to 486,773 at the end of July 2020.

READ MORE: As Farmers Insurance exits Florida, regulator weighs Citizens rate hike

After Florida lawmakers made wide-ranging changes to try to bolster the insurance market during a December special session, some companies have started looking to take policies from Citizens.

Monarch assumed 17,239 policies in June, while Slide Insurance and Loggerhead Reciprocal Interinsurance Exchange have received approval to take as many as 26,000 policies in August, Carl Rockman, a Citizens vice president, said during a meeting last month.

While the five insurers received approval in Monday’s orders to assume 184,000 policies, the actual number leaving Citizens will likely not be that many. The insurers will effectively be able to choose which policies they want, a process Citizens Board of Governors Chairman Carlos Beruff recently likened to “cherry picking.”

Also, not all targeted policyholders will shift out of Citizens to private carriers. But a change that lawmakers approved in December increases the likelihood customers will leave Citizens — though they might have to pay more for coverage.

In many cases, homeowners can buy less-expensive coverage from Citizens than from private insurers. The change approved in December requires Citizens customers to accept offers of coverage from private insurers if the offers are within 20 percent of the cost of Citizens premiums.

Rockman told members of the Citizens Exposure Reduction Committee last month that Monarch requested 18,760 policies in its June takeout effort and wound up with 17,239. He credited the new law with the high rate of policies shifting out of Citizens.

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