News from Tallahassee for 1/30/15

Scott already eyeing replacement for state's top insurance regulator posted on 1/28/15

by Steve Bousquet | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott recruited a Louisiana state official as the replacement for Florida's chief insurance regulator weeks before he publicly called for the regulator's removal as part of a second-term reorganization.

Scott's office confirmed Monday that it asked for a resume from Ron Henderson, 45, the deputy insurance commissioner for consumer advocacy in Louisiana. His name was pitched to Scott by a Tallahassee lobbyist for the insurance industry, Fred Karlinsky, a friend of Scott's and co-chairman of his recent second inaugural.

Henderson was being considered as a replacement for Kevin McCarty, who has headed Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation since 2003 and plays a critical role in setting the property insurance rates that affect all Florida homeowners and businesses.

Karlinsky, a Fort Lauderdale-based lawyer, recently switched law firms and joined Greenberg Traurig, one of the state's most politically active.

Scott last month appointed Karlinsky to a prestigious state board, the nine-member Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission. That gives the lobbyist a seat at the table in recommending who should be the high court's next justice.

Karlinsky has had a tense relationship with McCarty's office, and the lobbyist is on friendlier terms with Henderson. Karlinsky and Henderson were co-presenters at an insurance regulation seminar on ethics in New Orleans in July, sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Insurance.

Karlinsky has twice donated $5,000 to the election campaigns of Henderson's boss, Louisiana Insurance Commissioner James Donelon, in 2009 and 2013.

Scott's office reached out to Henderson while the governor was at the center of a growing furor over his office's sudden December ouster of Gerald Bailey, the long-time commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That move has led to calls for an outside investigation by two Cabinet members — Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

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PIP insurance could continue to get green light posted on 1/8/15

by JIM Turner | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

report released from the state Office of Insurance Regulation indicates that the growth of fraud in personal-injury protection, or PIP, claims has been halted.

Legislators appear unlikely to change a law designed to reduce fraud in the state's "no-fault" auto insurance system.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater hopes they continue to show patience. Atwater said the 2012 plan to improve the system is backed by a report released Monday by the state Office of Insurance Regulation. The report indicated that the growth of fraud in personal-injury protection, or PIP, claims has been halted.

"The Legislature, I'm hoping, will give this time and see how this is progressing, and that we would continue to see more of these players with less claims do what is the right thing and bring rates down for Floridians," Atwater said.

The report found that since the law went into place on Jan. 1, 2013, there has been a drop in the number of personal-injury protection claims filed and dollars sought. Meanwhile, the report indicates that claims under other coverage types, such as bodily injury and uninsured motorist, have gone up.

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State Report Says Fraud Down In 'No Fault' Claims posted on 1/6/15

by mary shedden | WUSF

A 2012 effort to reform the state's "no-fault" auto insurance system has halted the growth of fraud in the system, according to a new state report. But the numbers released Monday are still considered too preliminary to show the full impact of the law.

The report by the Office of Insurance Regulation found that since the law (HB 119) went into place on Jan. 1, 2013, there has been a drop in the number of personal-injury protection claims filed and dollars sought.

Meanwhile, the report indicates that claims under other coverage types, such as bodily injury and uninsured motorist, have gone up.

"Overall, there was limited data available to determine the true impact of HB 119," a release from the Office of Insurance Regulation said. "However, the data call analysis reveals the law has had a major impact on the personal auto market and changed the trajectory of trends being seen prior to its enactment."

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Florida workers comp is healthy, report says posted on 1/2/15

by News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — State regulators this week released a report touting Florida's competitive workers-compensation insurance market, though it also raised the possibility of lawmakers taking steps to reduce the system's medical costs.

The Office of Insurance Regulation provides an annual report on the workers-compensation market to legislative leaders.

The report released Tuesday said Florida has a large number of workers-compensation insurers and that none of the carriers has enough market share to drive prices.

“There are no significant barriers for the entry and exit of insurers into the Florida workers' compensation market and based on the record of new entrants and voluntary withdrawals with no market disruptions, the Florida workers' compensation market is competitive, well capitalized and robust,” the report said.

Rates in the workers-compensation system plummeted after lawmakers passed a wide-ranging overhaul in 2003. The report said rates, as of January 2015, will be 58.3 percent below what they were before the 2003 changes.

But it also raises the possibility that lawmakers could reduce rates further by addressing certain types of health-care costs in the system.

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Flood map sends insurance sky high posted on 12/22/14

by JOHN HENDERSON | News Herald

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Sal Albano said his family is among those in the Martinique subdivision who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of high insurance rates resulting from their community being in a coastal flood map for St. Andrews State Park.

Because their community is included in the map, residents cannot obtain affordable flood insurance through the federal government. They can buy private flood insurance, which can cost as much as $50,000 annually.

To no avail, Bay County officials have been trying to convince Congress to take that community behind Capt. Anderson’s restaurant, as well as the nearby Finisterre and Bonefish Pointe subdivisions, out of the federal flood map.

On Tuesday, the Bay County Commission approved of a resolution urging Congress to remove the subdivisions from the Coastal Barrier Resource Act flood map created to include St. Andrews State Park.

“The mapping error has prevented residents in these areas from obtaining affordable flood insurance,” the county’s agenda material states.

The bank financing Albano’s home has added private flood insurance onto his mortgage payment, causing his mortgage payment to double to $3,900 a month.

“I’m not wealthy,” said Albano, who is a maintenance engineer for a local condominium. “I have a disabled child with autism. (The mortgage payment) kills me.”

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