Thursday, December 21, 2006

Voters weigh in on insurance woes

Florida voters aren't convinced the state should solve its insurance woes by wading further into subsidizing the hurricane-battered industry, a new poll shows.

But they also say Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run pool for high-risk homes, should try to offer more profitable lines of insurance coverage that could reduce the state's consumers financial risk in future storms.

The Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday indicates Floridians don't favor one solution posed by lawmakers: sinking the state further into the insurance business by beefing up its role in offering reinsurance, the backup coverage that protects insurers from catastrophic losses.

The Connecticut school surveyed 1,066 registered voters last week and found that 49 percent opposed an idea to sell private insurers more low-cost reinsurance to cover their future hurricane losses, while 36 percent supported it. The poll has a 3 percent margin for error.

The Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund sells low-cost catastrophic coverage to insurance companies. The premiums are passed on to policyholders. The special session of the Legislature set to meet in January could consider proposals to expand the state-run program.

''It's clear there isn't this groundswell for having government get really strongly into the reinsurance business,'' said Peter Brown, assistant director of the school's Polling Institute.

The poll also found 63 percent of voters think state-run Citizens should be allowed to compete more with the private market for more-profitable, less-risky policies. Only 28 percent said it shouldn't do so.

''I think it reflects a general skepticism about government getting too much into the reinsurance business and too much putting itself at risk - i.e. tax dollars at risk in case of another catastrophic storm,'' Brown said.

A majority of voters surveyed also are unhappy with the state's Save Our Homes property tax structure, which sets a 3 percent cap on the taxable value of homesteads and thereby gives an advantage to longtime homeowners over newer ones.

The poll found that 53 percent think property tax rates should be based on property values, and 39 percent said it should be based on how long they've owned the property.


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