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What's the story of Charlie Crist reducing insurance rates?
If Your Time is short
- Statewide, homeowners' insurance premiums declined 10% from 2007 to 2010, Charlie Crist's first and last full year as governor. Experts hesitated to give Crist full credit for the reduction, saying a large share of the rate decrease was because of revisions made to Florida's windstorm mitigation credits in 2006.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist says Florida homeowners have one person to blame for soaring insurance premiums: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Hurricane Ian exposed the instability of the state's homeowners' insurance market; six Florida property insurers became insolvent in 2022, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
An ad from Crist's campaign contrasts rates under DeSantis with what happened after Crist became governor 15 years ago.
"He’s let home insurance rates skyrocket and he raised taxes on Floridians by $1 billion," Crist said. "When I was your governor, we reduced insurance rates by 10%."
PolitiFact rated a similar claim by Crist about $1 billion-plus in new taxes Mostly False, noting that online shoppers were supposed to be paying the state's sales tax before DeSantis signed a new law to collect the tax in 2017.
In this fact-check, we'll examine Crist's claims about property insurance, something he's mentioned before.
Crist was Florida’s governor from 2007 to 2010. During his first year in office, the state’s main action on property insurance was a bill that temporarily froze homeowners' insurance rates for the state-run insurer, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., and allowed it to compete with the private market.
The raw numbers supported his claim of a 10% home insurance rate drop when Crist was governor, but they don't tell the full story of his lasting impact on property insurance.
Eight hurricanes tore through Florida between 2004 and 2005, leaving homeowners on the hook for higher insurance premiums. Ahead of the 2006 governor's race, the insurance market became a chief concern.
Crist, then a Republican, campaigned on a promise to help consumers and their wallets. After taking office, he called on the state Legislature to hold a special session on property insurance.
Lawmakers passed HB 1A with bipartisan support, and Crist signed it into law in January 2007. The measure, in part, aimed to freeze Citizens' rates and loosened requirements to qualify.
Florida statutes previously required Citizens to develop rates based on the state's top insurers to avoid competing with the private market. HB 1A eliminated that requirement, and Citizens became a major competitor in the homeowners' insurance market.
Statewide, insurance premiums under Citizens and private insurers dropped from an annual average of $1,679 to $1,463 — about 13% — in 2008. Crist's 2022 campaign website attributed that decline to HB 1A. However, experts said changes to insurance law don't immediately affect the market.
"Typically, there is an 18-to-24-month cycle before we see impacts of insurance reform legislation in Florida," said Mark Friedlander, a spokesperson for the nonpartisan Insurance Information Institute.
So, that drop seen in 2008 is more likely a result of changes made before Crist took office. (Still, there was a 10% decline from 2007 to 2010 — Crist's first and last full year as governor.)
A March 2010 report compiled by Risk Management Solutions, a private company contracted by the state, attributed much of the rate decreases after 2006 to revisions made to Florida's windstorm mitigation credits.
Windstorm mitigation credits, which date back to 1993, are discounts provided to homeowners who invest in modifications that increase their homes’ resistance to storm damage.
However, some insurers would offset their costs by imposing other fees on consumers and it wasn't until 2006 that the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation barred insurers from doing that. Such revisions led to a marked decline in insurance premiums, the report found.
The average homeowners' insurance premium declined 3% from 2008 to 2009. But falling rates were short-lived. Private insurers said they could not compete with Citizens' frozen rates, a report from the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology found.
Citizens swelled by about 400,000 more policies between 2004 and 2007, for a total of 1.2 million properties covered in 2010.
Luckily for Floridians, and the insurance market under Crist, there were no major hurricanes during Crist's tenure. If there had been, Citizens likely would have been unable to cover claims, the Insurance Journal reported in 2014.
In 2009, Crist signed HB 1495 to end the rate freeze and allow Citizens to increase homeowners' insurance premiums; the law capped rate increases to 10% until Citizens became actuarially sound, or in line with private insurers' pricing practices.
Florida's property insurance rates are now among the highest in the U.S. The average homeowners' premium in Florida is $4,231, the Insurance Information Institute reported.
"Nearly all of the reforms that became law in 2007 that insurers didn't like have either been repealed or are not being enforced," said Sam Ramirez, a Crist spokesperson.
Still, a report by the Florida State University risk management and insurance program said the lasting effects of Crist's 2007 law "can still be seen today as Citizens rates remain below actuarially adequate levels in many areas of the state."
Experts said DeSantis did not cause Florida’s insurance market woes, but he hasn't done much to address the problem.
"It’s hard to say we don't have a more vibrant insurance market because of something DeSantis has done," said Patricia Born, professor at Florida State University's Risk Management Program. "It's more about what he hasn't done."
Although DeSantis called on the Legislature to hold a special session for property insurance in April, the laws passed during the three-day session did not guarantee consumers would receive premium relief.
Friedlander, of the Insurance Information Institute, said, "excessive litigation" filed against insurers plays a large role in the rate increases. Florida accounted for 79% of all U.S. homeowners insurance claim lawsuits, according to DeSantis' office.
Crist said he "reduced insurance rates by 10%."
Crist in 2007 signed a law that froze rates for Citizens, the state-run insurer. Homeowners' insurance rates initially fell then rose, leaving an overall reduction of 10% by the time Crist left office.
Experts hesitated to give Crist full credit for the reduction, saying a large share of credit was due to revisions made to Florida's windstorm mitigation credits in 2006. It's also worth remembering that no major hurricane struck Florida during Crist's tenure.
Crist’s actions appear to be partially responsible for the 10-percent drop, though he likely attributed too much of an impact to his policies. With that clarification, we rate the claim Mostly True.
Charlie Crist, tweet, Oct. 4, 2022
Email interview with Sam Ramirez, spokesperson for Crist's campaign, Oct. 12, 2022
Phone interview with Patricia Born, professor at the Florida State University's Risk Management Program, Oct. 13, 2022
Email interview with Mark Friedlander, director of corporate communications for the Insurance Information Institute, Oct. 13, 2022
Florida Politics, Crist ads resume with big bet on insurance, Oct. 4, 2022
WESH2, Crist says he lowered property insurance while governor, May 20, 2022
PolitiFact, Homeowners are paying more for less coverage under Scott, Sept. 10, 2014
Insurance Journal, Crist Signs Citizens Insurance Rate Hike Bill Into Law, May 28, 2009
Tampa Bay Times, Crist signs Citizens rate hike, May 28, 2009
Insurance Journal, Crist, Scott spar over property insurance, Sept. 8, 2014
Insurance Journal, Crist slams DeSantis' handling of Florida insurance, Sept. 8, 2022
NPR, Florida's property insurance market was already under stress, Oct. 6, 2022
Insurance Information Institute, Florida homeowners' insurance crisis, accessed Oct. 12, 2022
Tampa Bay Times, Citizens rate hikes capped at 10% a year, May 2, 2009
CBS, Citizens Property Insurance To Exceed 1 Million Policies In 2022, March 23, 2022
Citizens, Policies in Force, accessed Oct. 12, 2022
Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology, Windstorm Mitigation Discounts Report, Feb. 1, 2010
Risk Management Solutions, Study of Florida's Windstorm Mitigation Credits, accessed Oct. 12, 2022
Florida Department of State, Rule 690-170.017, accessed Oct. 12, 2022
Florida State University, Citizens Insurance Exposure Reduction, Nov. 12, 2020
Insurance Journal, Florida's Citizens Tops 1 Million Policies, Aug. 12, 2022
Naples Daily News, Crist signs bill to help lower property insurance rates, Jan. 25, 2007
Florida House of Representatives, "CS/HB 1A - Hurricane Preparedness and Insurance," Jan. 25, 2007
Florida House of Representatives, "CS/HB 1495 - Property and Casualty Insurance," May 27, 2009
Crist for Governor, Charlie's Plan to Fix Property Insurance, accessed Oct. 12, 2022
Reuters, Florida governor freezes property insurance rates, Jan. 30, 2007
Insurance Information Institute, Florida’s homeowners insurers are facing multiple crises, Aug, 9, 2022
Florida State University, Evolution of the Florida homeowners insurance market, accessed Oct. 12, 2022
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