by Rick Boettger.......
For the first time in 10 years, Citizens Insurance has not screwed Monroe County with another scientifically and financially extortionate 10% hurricane insurance increase. At least for homeowners. Condominium owners like me are getting our yearly shaft: the near-$7k I paid last year will go up to around $7,700, my second-largest fixed expense after the interest on my remaining mortgage.
In my column on Heather Carruthers' financial incompetence last month, I questioned whether she had brought the same level of expertise to the workings of FIRM, and that's why we kept getting screwed every year. So I had a meeting with a member of their Board of Directors, Steve Russ, and their Manager Caroline Horn at their modest office in one of the cubicles at 422 Fleming.
Well, the good news is, I cannot imagine them fighting a better fight for us than what they are in fact doing. It is complex, but, in a nutshell, they've got the science and they've got a great lawsuit going. Unfortunately, we're up against the politics of having millions more voters in the mainland enjoy having us rich folk subsidize their shoddy construction and sinkholes with our money: we have paid over the last decade nine times as much in premiums than we have received in claims, through a multitude of hurricanes.
This year, we got thrown a bone on the politics. As they have done every year, FIRM has pleaded our case at the mandatory meetings Citizens holds to let us scream at them. This time, it worked. The Office of Insurance Regulation listened to our plea to look at the new, actually somewhat scientific hurricane risk models we had done the last two years. Enjoy the following paragraph from their report, because it is the first time anyone has gotten Citizens to do anything for them:
The OFFICE considered testimony and documents from FIRM as well as other public testimony and comments from residents of Monroe County in evaluating the appropriate rates for Monroe County. Additionally, the OFFICE considered a number of factors which were raised and discussed at the hearing that have particular impact and effect on Monroe County risks and the premiums calculated for such risks. This included whether the accepted catastrophe models appropriately model treatment of wind vs. water (surge) losses and the risk associated with the unique geography and building code requirements of Monroe County.
The OFFICE finds that rates for H0-3 and dwelling fire policies in Monroe County should remain at current levels . . .
They go on to say this is to allow them to, wonder of wonders, evaluate four pieces of actual scientific research we have shown them. Right now it is $4 million in the pockets of Monroe policy holders. Maybe the next miracle will be our getting to file our lawsuit against their illegal denial of due process in the courts.
Folks, we have to keep sending FIRM money. I went through their books and they run a tight ship, minuscule admin costs, almost every penny going towards the fight, and it is a tough fight. This is perhaps the most important fight we have going on in Monroe after employee housing. We are fortunate to have such a capable champion in FIRM, and it is especially fun to be able to be on the side of a winner in the struggle for better government. What a strange feeling!