More than a million Florida homeowners who have their properties insured by the Citizens Property Insurance group could be left facing a massive new bill if Governor Rick Scott goes through with his controversial plans to slim down the government-run insurers and make it a last-resort option only.
The plan, which will affect 1.3 million people in the state, would likely force Citizens policy holders to seek home insurance through private companies instead, which could cost significantly more than what they are paying now.
Governor Scott insisted abolishing Citizens was the last thing he wanted to do, but he said that it was necessary to reduce the size of the state-run homeowner’s insurance company, which is the largest in Florida.
Robert Norberg, an insurer based in Lantana, said his office had been deluged by calls from concerned homeowners in recent days. He says that more than 70% of new customers use the state funded insurer simply because private companies don’t want to risk getting involved in Hurricane-vulnerable Florida.
“People need Citizens,” says Norberg. “But does it need to be this big? Probably not, but with no alternatives, what are people supposed to do?”
Citizens Property Insurance was established when dozens of big insurance companies pulled out of the state following the destruction of thousands of Florida homes by Hurricane Andrew back in 1992.
Mike Poutianen is a homeowner with Citizens insurance, and he has reservations about Governor Scott’s move. “I’m not necessarily against closing Citizens, but he has got to do something to get other insurance companies back in here,” he says.
However, Norberg thinks that is unlikely to happen. He also thinks that, with nearly one and a half million Citizens customers, Gov. Scott is unlikely to get his way.
“There simply isn’t anyone who is able to take on all those policies and do it successfully,” he said.