TALLAHASSEE - Florida was among a handful of states making the biggest improvements to its insurance systems this past year, according to a new 50-state ranking examining insurance efficiencies, free markets and low regulatory burdens.
The 2019 Insurance Regulation Report Card from the R Street Institute public policy research group indicates the Sunshine State went from a “B” grade in 2018 to an “A-minus” this year. The analysis looks at insurance markets’ costs to consumers, companies and taxpayers.
The report doesn’t measure legal climates’ effects on insurance markets but it mentions in a positive light Florida’s effort this year to reform assignment-of-benefits property litigation. The AOB reforms had no direct effect on this year’s grade but report author Ray Lehmann said positive changes in legal climates can bolster competition.
“It is the sort of thing that we expect to help over the long term in bringing some of the loss ratios down,” Lehmann told the Florida Record.
The reforms may move property claims through the process more quickly and perhaps bring insurers who had left back into the Florida market, he said.
“If a state’s legal environment was so onerous that no companies want to do business, you’d probably have greater concentration,” Lehmann said.
Florida also scored high on fiscal efficiency and its system for keeping the state insurance commissioner insulated from politics. The insurance commissioner can only be appointed or removed by a majority of the state’s Financial Services Commission, which consists of the governor, chief financial officer, attorney general and agriculture commissioner.
“It’s pretty hard to remove an insurance commissioner just because you dislike something he did,” Lehmann said. “Often regulators have to do things that are not popular.”
Overall, Florida has made strides in improving its insurance markets since 2007, when former Gov. Charlie Crist pushed for rate rollbacks and an expansion of the Florida insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Lehmann said.
Since then the not-for-profit Citizens Property has reduced its footprint in the insurance market as Florida saw improved competitiveness among private insurers in the state, according to Lehmann, who added, “We think that private capital is better deployed than having the taxpayers being ultimately responsible."