Citizens Property at Heart of Insurance Debate

TALLAHASSEE -

Putting it bluntly, the Florida House wants Citizens Property Insurance to disappear one day, to literally fade away.

The reason for that is simple. Listen to Delray Beach Republican Rep. Adam Hasner describe the House position on Citizens:

HASNER: We think Citizens Property Insurance - despite being one of the largest insurers in Florida - is one of the most poorly run.

And Hasner's actually showing restraint in his description. Other house members and their staff have privately compared the state insurer of last resort to Enron and even the Hindenburg.

In short, many describe it as a big, lumbering institution that is destined to crash spectacularly. But the Senate sees it differently.

Sure, says Senate President Ken Pruit, there have been problems. But the Port St. Lucie Republican says Citizens is big - 1.3 million policies big. And that brings a lot of leverage to the table, if Citizens was able to compete with private insurers.

PRUIT: And so that's what we're doing, by creating a stronger, more stable Citizens not one that we want to expand, but one that creates a more stable and competitive market.

Pruit's playing down the Senate's plan for Citizens' expansion.

The quasi-government insurer could enter new markets, and offer coverage for automobiles and other liabilities. The idea here, is that if Citizens can start spreading their risk around, that will help keep rates lower.

And if Citizens can offer lower rates throughout the state, private insurers would have to respond. But remember, The House doesn't like Citizens property insurance. Which is why Representative Hasner says:

HASNER: Rather than just being opposed to it because it's an expansion of government, our feeling is let's not expand bad government and have more bad government.

And so at the core, it's an ideological debate. While no one in Tallahassee argues the state is currently in the insurance business, the question is should it remain that way, and if so, should it get competitive?

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