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Florida Governor Signs Bill To Curb Gotcha Insurance Denials

By Charles Elmore, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 14--Gov. Rick Scott signed a host of bills Friday including reinforced rules against controversial claims denials scrutinized by The Palm Beach Post at the state's largest private insurer, a new homeowner bill of rights and a measure to boost private flood insurance.

An advocate for nursing-home residents criticized Scott's signing of a bill to make it harder to sue investors and others who make money from nursing homes.

"I hope Gov. Scott and this Legislature understand the cost our parents and grandparents will endure because of this act," said Brian Lee, executive director of the advocacy group Families for Better Care. "Exonerating decision makers in cases of abuse and neglect will only open the flood gates for more broken bones, pressure sores, and medication errors to occur."

The governor also signed a bill requiring title insurers to show they are creating 600 jobs by 2016 or lose a tax break of more than $5 million annually. The state's Office of Insurance Regulation has said it will "explore" sharing those savings with consumers in the meantime.

A newly signed law makes clear insurers have 90 days to check out applications and may not later terminate the policy based on credit information available in public records. Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Co. -- the state's largest private insurer, whose biggest market is Palm Beach County -- canceled policies instead of paying major claims based on what shocked customers saw as minor details in applications filed sometimes years earlier, The Post reported in a series of stories.

The same law creates a one-page bill of rights homeowners get when they file insurance claims.

"When someone is dealing with the unexpected loss of their property, they need to know they will be treated fairly by their insurance company and the contractors who are providing services," Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said in applauding the signing Friday.

Another approved bill aims to give private insurers more flexibility on flood insurance policies when it comes to things like coverage for contents, additional living expenses or secondary structures.

"Floridians will now have the flexibility to choose affordable flood insurance policies custom tailored to their individual needs," said state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. "With this law, Florida stands as a national leader in private flood insurance options."

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The Florida House blocked a move to let private insurers cover only the amount owed on a mortgage, but Brandes said the law still promotes alternatives to the federal government's National Flood Insurance Program.

Ethics watchdog Integrity Florida applauded the signing of a bill to make inspectors general more independent within state agencies.

Florida insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty praised the signing of a law he said he would better help regulators assess and monitor the solvency of insurers it oversees.


(c)2014 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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