‘Insane’ insurance market roils before storm season
|By Charles Elmore, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
He has had six insurance companies in nine years, he said. With hurricane season looming
"It's stressful," Goldberg said. "I have a baby at home and a full-time job. I have to worry about getting a cancellation notice every year. I have to waste days of my life dealing with this."
But homegrown companies also accounted for five of the seven carriers with the most complaints per capita among the top 30 insurers serving
Only 14 complaints out of 378 were for "underpayment of claim," Desjadon noted: "That tells me the time, energy and resource we put into understanding and evaluating a claim gets us to the right result the vast majority of the time."
But not all homegrown insurers are getting it right financially.
Don't blink in this market or you'll miss big changes. The sixth largest insurer in
Heritage recently told agents not to write new business in 18 South Florida ZIP codes, including two in
The cancellations affected less than 3 percent of its customers statewide and reflect "the company's commitment to appropriately manage future growth while ensuring protection and peace of mind of our policyholders," marketing director
There's no question it's a dynamic market even if not everyone is shopping by choice before hurricane season. Record numbers have left Citizens, with about 600,000 of its 1.5 million customers departing over the last two years. In
Most homeowners are leaving Citizens either through transfer offers that are voluntary -- though some homeowners say offer letters make it sound financially risky to stay with Citizens -- or because they have no choice under a new clearinghouse created by state legislators. The clearinghouse, a computer system used by agents, automatically steers consumers to private companies offering comparably priced coverage in their area.
In the early going,
Transfer offers for up to 75,000 Citizens customers were approved for May. That's unusual because takeout activity is usually heaviest in the winter, not near hurricane season. Another 10,000 offers are set for July.
Still, there may be signs the exodus from Citizens is slowing. Only about 11,000 Citizens customers have taken transfer offers this month, a spokesman said.
Not every homeowner has a choice of companies, but for those who do, shopping in
If private companies fail -- after a bad storm, say, or financial problems -- their claims are covered by the
Even short of major storms, unexpected disputes with big fire or water claims can put at risk life savings or what is often someone's largest investment, their home.
The state's largest private insurer,
Universal received the lowest grade in the county's top 30 for financial strength from
At the same time, Citizens also ranks No. 2 in complaints relative to its number of customers. Many of the changes legislators approve each spring are designed to make it less and less palatable to consumers and encourage more of them to move to private insurers, such as reducing coverage of outbuildings or shrinking maximum coverage limits. Also, nearly 1,000 of its 2,961 complaints involved sinkholes, a bigger issue in western and central
A group representing many of
All of the
But it feels like a never-ending drama to consumers like Goldberg, who lives just west of
"It's just been a non-stop battle," he said.
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