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Florida's insurance commissioner hopeful market moving 'into recovery'

'Everything is generally showing that we're sort of hopefully moving out of the emergency room and into the recovery,' Insurance Commissioner Michael Yaworsky says
Posted at 7:57 PM, Apr 04, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's Insurance Commissioner reaffirmed Thursday that things were getting better for the state's ailing property insurance market. That is despite many Floridians not seeing it reflected in their premiums.

After years of grant programs and reform, including cutting down insurance lawsuits to ease prices, Insurance Commissioner Michael Yaworsky said changes were showing signs of working.

"Everything is generally showing that we're sort of hopefully moving out of the emergency room and into the recovery," he said during an interview with E.W. Scripps.

Yaworsky pointed to Florida's state-backed insurer of last resort, Citizens, having a stronger surplus. Also, the state's domestic private insurance carriers are netting profits for the first time in years. Plus, he highlighted eight new property and casualty insurers that have entered the state's market.

The commissioner said he still didn't have a timeline for prices to drop but expected they would continue to stabilize. Yaworsky also said Florida needed to hold off on any further changes until it's certain previous reforms are working.

"We're seeing data that indicates it is having an impact, and so we wanna see what that looks like before we change things completely," Yaworsky said. "We've seen the average homeowner's insurance rates go up about 60% over the past three years. We're seeing an average of about $3,400 a year. I think we will see some leveling off of that before we see any reductions, but there are indicators that are looking promising."

The commissioner's comments come about a month after the 2024 legislative session, where little insurance reform was enacted. Democrats in the super minority have repeatedly criticized Republican leaders for not doing more.

The House Minority Leader Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said recently the GOP was ignoring one of the biggest issues facing the state.

"I don't know what it will take," Driskell told us last month. "It really seems to me that the Republicans are turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to Floridians who are in crisis right now."

For their part, GOP members have said they're trying to make the market more competitive and let capitalism do its thing to drive down prices. Florida's House Speaker Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, said during the session he had confidence previous reforms had put Florida on the right track.

"All the things you would hope to see are happening as an initial step towards an improvement is happening," Renner said. "But the last part of that is the rates, unfortunately. I just can't flip a switch."

Meanwhile, it's becoming a deeper and deeper frustration for Floridians. New polling from Progress Florida released Thursday showed more than 60% disapprove of the governor's handling of the insurance crisis — along with the hits that may keep coming if relief doesn't arrive soon.

Lawmakers did approve another round of tax relief during this year's session, plus agreed to refill that grant program to help people harden homes against severe weather, which can help lower premiums.

Members also opted to expand it to condos with a pilot program, which might get the full green light if successful. The measures are still in need of Gov. Ron DeSantis' signature to take effect.