Insurance Industry Corruption

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(By Vice Mayor Jim Atterholt) Insurance issues continue to plague Fort Myers Beach and we must remain vigilant. I see this first-hand as my wife and I have had to move five times since the storm because our condo building is still uninhabitable–primarily because of delayed insurance payments. Having served as the State Insurance Commissioner for Indiana before moving to Florida, I remain very concerned about how poorly many insurance companies have responded to legitimate claims from Hurricane Ian. In my opinion, there has been systemic corruption by some insurance companies that continues to thwart not only the lives of our residents but our overall recovery as well.

I raised the issue again with the Florida CFO, Jimmy Patronis, at the ceremony for the one-year anniversary of hurricane Ian in Fort Myers Beach.  As insurance is still primarily regulated at the state level, our regulators in Florida must continue to keep the pressure on the bad actors.  I was told by the CFO and the state Insurance Commissioner at the FMB Insurance Village in April that various market conduct exams have been launched against some of the insurance companies who have received significant complaints after Ian from policyholders.  A market conduct exam is an independent audit done by a third party to examine the claims paying practices of the company in question and the costs of the audit are borne by the insurance company.  If the market conduct exam finds the company is guilty, the regulator can impose fines and or pressure the company to pay the outstanding claims.

While fines are nice for the state coffers, it would be much better if the regulator pressured the company in question to pay all outstanding legitimate claims or at a minimum pay any undisputed claims.  This would help our residents and benefit our island’s recovery significantly.  I raised the point this week while speaking with the Florida State Insurance Commissioner, Mike Yaworsky, and he informed me that some market conduct exams should soon be wrapping up and more are about to be launched.  Look for a public announcement very soon.

He asked that I remind folks to keep filing complaints against their insurance company if there are still problems or to share your experience with your insurance company good or bad.  This data helps the regulator determine which problem companies to target with outside audits.  You can file a complaint by calling the Insurance Consumer Helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236) or do so online at MyFloridaCFO.com.

I also had the chance to speak this week with Justin Michaels from the Weather Channel who is working on a story about the impact of insurance claims going unpaid.  The concern I raised with him is that roughly twenty percent of the population is going bare (without property insurance).  This is due in part to the rising premiums which average around $6000 per year in Florida but that number is much higher on Fort Myers Beach. I believe many people in Southwest Florida are going without insurance based upon the bad experience folks have had post Ian with their insurer.  If you have a mortgage, you may not be able to choose this option.  Some folks, however, with the means and the discipline are setting aside the premiums they otherwise would have paid to a company into their own emergency insurance fund.  This strategy is risky for the first few years but after a while, one may be able to build up a sizable emergency fund considering there is no deductible and no one delaying or denying your claim when you have a problem.

It is sad it has come to this but my advice is continue to fight. I will work to keep this issue front and center with state regulators.  If you still have unpaid or insufficiently paid claims, I encourage you to file a complaint with the state regulator, hire a public adjuster or an attorney and just be diligent in staying on your insurance company to pressure them to do the right thing.  Some companies are hoping you will give up—please keep fighting!

Jim Atterholt
Vice Mayor—Fort Myers Beach
AtterholtJ@fmbgov.com

 

 

 

10 COMMENTS

  1. Maybe a class action suit against the state insurance commissioner for allowing this to happen (again and again). Insurance has become a Ponzi scheme.

  2. I wouldn’t have a job if your insurance company would just pay the claim.
    Carriers play the odds. They know the majority of policy holders settle for the first check.
    Some settle for the second check.
    Others hire a Public Adjuster or Attorney.
    The same insurance companies that won’t pay your claim spend millions in Tallahassee getting new laws that limit your coverage, remove consumer protections and reduce their liability for bad-faith claims.
    I’m getting claims paid, but it keeps getting harder and harder.
    So much of what we experience is termed “claim suppression”.
    If you have a claim, you know what it is and you know it’s real.

  3. A massive storm as devastating as Ian itself and the solution falls on the back of one guy – the Insurance Conmissioner fielding unending complaints.
    Where are the leaders- the legislators, the Governor, the island’s congressional representative?
    We know. Legislators are comfortably at home raising money for their next election, the governor is prowling the Iowa cornfields, Byron Donalds is busy maneuvering for the speaker’s job.
    And the insurance storm grows larger.

    • I’m with you, Lee. Our leader’s cronies just tells us how much they have done for us with no help for what they haven’t done. That’s insurance. It’s also funny that the Insurance Commissioner promised everyone’s claims will be processed during the one-year anniversary, although this articles proves there is nothing he can do. Only what we can do. Such BS by all. Including our State Government blindsiding people and leaving before those people can complain or ask “Show me the money”.

  4. Lets impose some statewide rules that insurance companies must use impartial adjusters and must pay flood, hurricane, tornado claims in 90 days or face significant fines and escalating payments to damaged homeowners. There is no investigation needed to determine cause of hurricane damage. It was on the NEWS!

  5. Than you for your guidance. Our carriers, both flood and wind, have paid just slightly above 10 % of our Proof of Loss claims. We continue to have our wind claim shuffled from desk adjuster to desk adjuster. Flood continues to ask for the same information, over and over again. Both are obvious delay tactics and the process continues to hamper any speedy recovery. Our condominium remains closed for any owner use.

  6. The basic concept of insurance is spreading the risk over large numbers. Many Insurance companies no longer write property insurance in Florida due to the huge losses they have incurred but they still make significant profits in other states. Many of these companies who have withdrawn from the property/homeowners market still write other “profitable” lines of business in the state. I would love for the Dept of Insurance to tell all multiline companies they must provide all of their products in Florida in order to continue to do business in the state.
    Like a Good Neighbor or Being in Good Hands, etc. etc. should include property insurance too.

  7. I didn’t have insurance, but the money I saved in the 8 years i owned my home would cover most of my expenses to put back (slab home with no structural damage). This assumes the town would issue me an owners/builder permit on my home that is in my trust, so I can do/manage the work…. If I have to pay licensed contractors that are over charging now… i may need more money…

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