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Special Session Over: Florida Lawmakers Agree on Insurance Reform Bill

1-22-07

The Legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill Monday that it hopes will lower Floridians' skyrocketing home insurance rates. Lawmakers said the average Florida homeowner could see savings of about 22 percent, although it would vary widely depending on where they live and who their insurance company is.

However, customers of the state's two largest insurers would get the least relief.

Now it's up to Gov. Crist to decide if the plan is good enough. With a handshake, the legislative deal was sealed. The legislation requires insurance companies to offer more choices like higher deductibles or eliminating content coverage. Policyholders will also be able to spread the pain by paying quarterly or semi-annually.

Companies that write auto policies here, but offer both home and auto in other states will have to do the same in Florida. The biggest saving will come from the state doubling the amount of risk it is taking in underwriting insurance. Some have called it unsound, but Chief Senate Negotiator Bill Posey says it will produce results.

“If there’s a big one, people are gonna have to pay for it, but we won’t presumably pay for it five times while we’re waiting for it to happen,” said Posey.

Action was delayed over an hour by last minute problems with the deal. For the first time, the state will set standards for hardening your home against hurricanes and then force insurers to give you credit for the work you’ve done. Overall savings are expected to vary from 15 to 30 percent, depending on where you live and what coverages you choose.

Senate President Ken Pruitt says the changes will make a difference.

"We’ve stabilized the patient, and we now have a patient that is not bleeding anymore and from now on out the healing process begins.”

It will likely take policyholders six weeks to learn what their savings will be.


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