The Tampa Tribune ran an editorial on January 12th regarding the Citizens Mission Review Task Force. As usual, I had something to say about their opinion, and wrote the the following reply, which was published in Sunday’s paper:
Florida Dangerously Vulnerable
This is in response to the Jan. 12 editorial, "New Ideas Could Bring Sound Hurricane Coverage."
You raise some important points regarding the safety net of property insurance, and the Citizens Mission Review Task Force meetings also revealed issues that all Floridians must be made aware of.
First, dried up credit markets have left our current system dangerously vulnerable. In the event of a major hurricane season, it is unlikely that Florida would be able to raise the money needed to cover the debts of Citizens through bond sales.
Second, as you noted, Citizens rates are currently lower than being actuarial sound. Yet everybody wants rates to remain affordable. The task force recommended responsible, capped increases to prevent wallet shock.
Third, encouraging a private insurance market to replace those carriers that find Florida too risky is a viable long-term solution. The Legislature passed laws aiding and regulating these companies that often provide coverage at rates lower than Citizens, especially for policyholders who take advantage of the My Safe Florida Home program.
Finally, the best long-term solution is to harden structures. Yes, it is costly but offering premium discounts to homeowners who make improvements has to be encouraged, even if it takes a state and federal tax relief program too beneficial to pass up. That is something our federal and state leaders can start working on now.
We cannot afford to put our heads in the sand and hope Mother Nature will spare us for another season. We must act now for the long-term because there is no easy short-term solution to the very difficult situation we all face.
WILLIAM F. "CHIP" MERLIN
The writer is founder of the Merlin Law Group and was appointed to the Citizens Property Insurance Mission Review Task Force by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008.
The final meeting of the Task Force is scheduled in Jacksonville on Thursday, January 22nd. Our Report is due to the Florida Legislature by January 31.