by Tim Meenan, Lobbyist

Please call  Lee from  USAsurance Powered by WeInsure & Calle Financial. 954-270-7966 or 833-USAssure at the office. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com . I am Your Insurance Consultant  about Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Life Insurance, Mortgage protection, Financial Products, Business  & Commercial Policies, & Group Products for business owners to give Employees benefits at no cost to the employer. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com

PROPERTY

1.     Property Insurer Reimbursement SB 1058/HB 695

by Sen. Hutson and Rep. Stevenson

PASSED

SB1058 was amended on the House floor to require that the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund provide reimbursement for a loss under collateral protection insurance (also known as lender-placed or force-placed insurance) when the coverage amount differs from the coverage amount under the lapsed policy if the homeowner received notice of the collateral protection insurance coverage amount, or the homeowner requested a different coverage amount from the collateral protection insurer. This language has been in the Insurance Omnibus bill the past two session.      

The bill authorizes the State Board of Administration (SBA) to provide Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund (Cat Fund) coverage to authorized insurers or Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens) for the policies of unsound insurers that Citizens or the authorized insurer assumes or otherwise provides coverage. The authorized insurer or Citizens may obtain Cat Fund coverage for such policies either through the authorized insurer’s or Citizens reimbursement contract with the Cat Fund, or by accepting an assignment of the unsound insurer’s contract with the Fund.

The bill defines “unsound insurer” to mean an insurer determined by the Office of Insurance Regulation to be in unsound condition as defined s. 624.80(2), F.S., or placed in receivership under ch. 631, F.S.

Under current law, these options for obtaining Cat Fund coverage are only available to Citizens and only apply to the policies of liquidated insurers.

2.     Surplus Lines Tax on Flood Insurance Premiums HB 1149

by Rep. Giallombardo

DEAD

The bill provides that premiums charged for surplus lines coverages for peril of flood are not subject to specified premium receipts tax. The bill has been referred to three House committees but has not yet been heard.  There is no Senate companion measure.

3.     Property and Citizens Property Insurance Corporation SB 1728/HB 1307

by Sen. Boyd and Rep. Gregory

DEAD

In the last week of session the House only moved the Insurance Omnibus Bill (SB 468). However some of this language was amended on the Omnibus Bill, which also died. 

·        Requires the citizens Executive Director to meet the same experience and qualification as for insurers under 624.404(3), F.S.

·        Increases the threshold a policyholder has to refuse a “take-out” offer to 20% (Senate in year 1 compared to over a 5-year period in House proposal) greater than the renewed premium for comparable coverage. This applies to both personal and commercial lines.

·        Removes the eligibility for policyholder removed through an assumption agreement to remain in citizens.

·        Requires underwriting and claims files to be confidential by assuming carriers.

·        Makes technical changes to the citizens clearinghouse statute. 

Contained in Senate Version Only (House bill is limited to Citizens changes)

·        Requires roofers to include specific language on advertising about the insurance deductible and fraud. 

·        A Senate amendment last week eliminated the concept of roof sub-limits, allowing instead for insurers to utilize a separate 2% deductible for roofs that would apply when the roof is replaced as opposed to repaired, and would not apply if the home is a total loss.

·        Increases the citizens policyholder surcharge to:

  • 15% of premium if citizens have fewer than 1 million policies.
  • 20% if the citizens have between 1-1.5 million policies.

·        Allows qualified surplus lines insurers to “take-out” citizens policies. Policies with replacement cost above $700,000 and a premium offer of 15% or less will no longer be eligible for citizens coverage. For policies with a replacement cost less than $700,000 remains eligible if it receives an offer of coverage from a surplus lines insurer.

Senate President Wilton Simpson has made several remarks stating that if the Legislature doesn’t fix the roof problem, then they are letting the policyholders of Florida down. However, the House does not currently have a bill to address the roof issue. Speaker Sprowls has stated that he wants to allow time for last year’s reforms to fully kick-in.

4.     Domestic Surplus Lines Insurance SB 1402/HB 951

by Sen. Burgess and Rep. Gregory

DEAD

This bill failed for a couple of reasons, first off OIR weighed in against the bill, a position they have had for multiple sessions, and the House sponsor voted against the Congressional Redistricting Maps some of his priorities were killed. 

·        Creates a definition of a “Domestic surplus lines insurer”

·        If a domestic insurer possesses a surplus of $15 million, they may after board approval and approval of OIR, be made eligible as domestic surplus lines insurer.

·        The domestic surplus lines insurer is subject to all financial and solvency requirements imposed upon domestic admitted insurers.

·        Surplus lines insurance policies issued by a domestic surplus lines insurer are exempt from all requirements relating to insurance rating and rating plans; policy forms; premiums charged to insureds, policy cancellation; nonrenewal; and renewal.

·        Policies issued by the domestic surplus lines insurer are subject to taxes assessed upon surplus lines policies, but exempt from other taxes levied upon domestic and foreign admitted insurers.

·        Policies are not subject to part II, III or V of chapter 631.

5.     Pet Insurance: Veterinary Telehealth SB 448/HB 723

by Sen. Brodeur and Rep. Buchanan

DEAD

The House version has passed out of the chamber unanimously on February 10. The Senate version remained temporarily postposed in the Senate Regulated Industries committee.

Current law defines a “veterinarian/client/patient relationship” (VCPR) as one in which a veterinarian has assumed responsibility for making medical judgments about the health of an animal and its need for medical treatment. Veterinarians are permitted to prescribe drugs in the course of veterinary practice; however, the veterinarian must be either personally acquainted with the keeping and caring of the animal and have recently seen the animal, or have made medically appropriate and timely visits to the premises where the animal is kept before prescribing drugs in the course of practice.

The use of electronic communications to facilitate patient health care (telemedicine) is not addressed in the practice act and is not specifically prohibited or authorized in Florida. However, medical doctors may practice telemedicine in Florida and may establish a patient relationship with a patient evaluation via telemedicine under certain circumstances.

·        Establishes a framework for the practice of veterinary telemedicine.

·        Limits a veterinarian’s ability to prescribe controlled substances while practicing telemedicine to situations where:

  • The veterinarian has previously performed an in-person physical examination or made medically appropriate and timely visits to the premises where the animal is kept; or
  • The veterinarian is treating a terminal patient transferred to the veterinarian for hospice care by a veterinarian who previously performed an in-person physical examination of the patient and such veterinarian has reviewed the patient’s medical records.

·        Specifies that only Florida licensed veterinarians may practice veterinary telemedicine, and grants the Board jurisdiction over the practice of veterinary telemedicine.

·        Allows an animal control authority under the “indirect supervision” of a veterinarian to administer rabies vaccinations.

AUTO

1.     PIP REPEAL SB 150/HB 1525

by Sen. Burgess and Rep. Grall

DEAD

Sen. Burgess held strong and never moved his bill out of his own committee. With a unified industry against the bill, the Senate President’s Office did not weigh in to force the bill through. 

The Senate version passed its first of three committees on February 2.  The next committee stop for the Senate version is the Judiciary committee which is not scheduled to meet again, according to the bill sponsor, Sen. Burgess, who is the chair of that committee. However, in prior years, committees have met as late as week 9 so anything is possible in the last few weeks of Session. The House version has only passed one of its two committees to date, despite being a House priority.  Last year’s PIP repeal bill was vetoed by the Governor due, in part, to an OIR commissioned study received after Session ended that showed last year’s bill resulted in an overall price increase in premiums of 13.3% for all coverages. The bill sponsor, Rep. Grall, attacked the OIR in committee over the rate study, accusing them of agency malpractice. This was likely in response to comments by Sen. Jeff Brandes, who said last week it would be “legislative malpractice” to consider near-identical legislation and not have any additional information on the fiscal impact.  The House failed to advance its version of the bill to the floor.  In a moment of levity during the last House Judiciary meeting Rep. Grall asked for a moment of silence because her PIP bill is officially dead. 

HB 1525 was filed by Rep. Erin Grall (R) who is the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Grall announced this week that she is running for Senate with the support of Senate leadership. SB 150 was filed by Sen. Danny Burgess (R), who is Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The House and Senate PIP repeal bills pretty much line up – except for bad faith. The Senate bill contains the same bad faith language that was in the PIP repeal bill that passed last year. The Senate continues to push this language which is problematic for many insurers. The bad faith language in the Senate bill only applies to failure to settle auto claims and is found at lines 1771-2092.

The House PIP repeal bill does not contain any bad faith reform which was the House starting position last year, though they eventually went to the Senate bad faith position in the final bill.

The biggest change in the PIP bills this year is on medical payments: The bill that passed last year automatically included $10,000 of med pay benefits unless a signed rejection was received (i.e., opt out).

This year, the House and Senate bills flip their med pay position and only require a mandatory offer of med pay (i.e., opt in). Opt in med pay has historically been opposed by the doctors, hospitals, and health insurers as a cost shift to them.

A summary of the high points of this year’s PIP repeal bill in the House and Senate follows:

·        Repeals PIP and replace with mandatory BI coverage of $25K/$50k and $5k death benefit. PD coverage remains at $10k – contained in both House and Senate bills.

·        This is the same as the bill that passed last year.

·        Requires opt-in med: med pay offer of $5k and $10k (can offer any med pay amount over $5k); $0 deductible for med pay ($500 max deductible) – contained in both House and Senate bills.

·        This is basically the opposite of the bill that passed last year which has opt-out med pay.

·        Contains a limited “no pay no play” provision which requires a mandatory $10k set-off for recovery by an uninsured driver – – contained in both House and Senate bills.

·        This is the same as the bill that passed last year.

·        Contains bad faith reform (though problematic for many insurers) – only in Senate bill.

2.     Public Records of Crash Reports and Traffic Citations SB 1614/HB 1121

by Sen. Harrell and Rep. Brannan

PASSED

This bill received a little pushback from the trial bar, but ultimately, they stood down and focused on other priorities. 

The Bill:

·        Written reports of crashes will be exempt under s. 119.07(1).

·        Expands who can receive the crash report to the Department of Health and any person or entity acting on behalf of a federal, state, or local governmental agency carrying out its functions.

·        Creates stricter and clearer guidelines for holding a crash report. 

·        Exempts “driver information” on traffic citations from public records, creates a sunset of October 2, 2027.

  • Date of birth
  • Driver license number
  • Address excluding the zip code
  • Trailer tag number

The bill also provides legislative intent language that both traffic citation and crash report information should not reveal personal information.

3.     Driver History Records SB 1202

      by Sen. Brodeur

DEAD

This bill has no House companion which makes it unlikely to pass, but we will be monitoring the text of this language to see if it pops up in a larger House bill.  The bill excludes speeding tickets from a driver’s history to be released to a 3rd party. The bill has not yet been heard.

GENERAL INSURANCE

1.     INSURANCE OMNIBUS SB 468/HB 503

by Sen. Perry and Rep. Gregory

DEAD

In the final week of session the House decided to only move one insurance bill which is SB 468. The House amended part of the Citizens/Property bill onto SB 468 and sent it over to the Senate. The bill has several components to i including the following:

·        Directs the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to provide reimbursement for a loss under collateral protection insurance (also known as lender-placed or force-placed insurance) when the coverage amount differs from the coverage amount under the lapsed policy if the homeowner received notice of the collateral protection insurance coverage amount, or the homeowner requested a different coverage amount from the collateral protection insurer. However, this provision passed as an amendment to SB1058 Property Insurer Reimbursement  — see summary in Property section..

·        Provides that current requirements under the Workers’ Compensation Law for annual, physical onsite payroll audits of employers in the construction class will only apply when the estimated annual premium is $10,000 or more.

·        Authorizes associations, trusts, and pools formed to provide self-insurance for public entities to use communications media technology to establish quorum and conduct public business.

·        Provides that an all-lines adjuster who is appointed and employed by an insurer’s affiliate may serve as a company employee adjuster for the purpose of adjusting claims.

·        Allows a residential property insurer’s rate filing to estimate projected hurricane losses by using a weighted or straight average of two or more models approved by the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology.

·        Authorizes an insurer to file a personal lines residential property insurance rating plan that provides premium discounts, credits, and other rate differentials based on windstorm construction standards developed by an independent, not-for-profit, scientific research organization.

·        Limits the requirement that an insurer provide a policyholder who has an automatic bank withdrawal agreement with the insurer with 15 days advance written notice of any increase in policy premiums. Instead, notice will only be required for premium increases that will result in an increase in the automatic withdrawal of more than $10 from the previous withdrawal amount.

·        Provides Citizens Property Insurance Corporation with discretion to offer wind-only policies to condominium associations when 50 percent or more of their units are rented more than eight times per year for a period of less than 30 days.

·        Eliminates a requirement that an insurer that provides electronic delivery of the insurance policy to a policyholder (or the person entitled to delivery) to also provide within the electronic transmission notice of the policyholder’s right to receive the policy via United States mail. The bill also eliminates a requirement that the insurer provide a paper copy of the policy to the insured upon his or her request.

·        Allows a policyholder to select a hurricane deductible greater than 10 percent, reject windstorm coverage, or reject contents coverage under a residential property insurance policy by typing the existing exclusionary statement language, instead of handwriting it.

·        Provides that s. 627.7152, F.S., governing assignment agreements, applies to instruments that assign or transfer post-loss benefits to a service provider that provides scopes of service or provides inspection services.

·        Provides that the term “assignment agreement” does not include an instrument by which a licensed public adjuster is compensated for public adjuster services.

·        Requires that an assignee provide the notice of intent to initiate litigation to the name and mailing address designated by the insurer in the policy forms if notice is sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, or to the e-mail address designated by the insurer in the policy forms if notice is sent by electronic delivery.

·        Requires that an automobile policy that does not provide coverage for bodily injury liability and property damage liability include notice accompanying the declarations page that the policy does not provide such coverages and does not comply with any financial responsibility laws. Such policies generally cover antique motor vehicles.

·        Exempts licensed personal lines and general lines agents from salesperson licensing requirements otherwise required to solicit, negotiate, advertise, or sell home warranty contracts, and service agreement contracts.

2.     Information Submitted by Insurers/Public Record Exemption SB 7016/HB 7043 by Senate Banking and Insurance and House Government Operations

PASSED

The Senate version passed the chamber 35-0 on January 19 and the House passed the bill on March 6, by a vote of 111-0.   

Continues the public records exemption for certain information submitted to the Department of Financial Services (DFS) related to an insurer’s anti-fraud plan or annual fraud report pursuant to s. 626.9891, F.S., by removing the October 2, 2022, repeal date.

Currently, s. 626.9891, F.S., provides that certain information submitted to DFS related to an insurer’s anti-fraud plan or annual fraud report is exempt from s. 119.07(1), F.S., and article I, section 24 of the Florida Constitution.

Pursuant to the Open Government Sunset Review (OGSR), the public records exemption is scheduled to repeal October 2, 2022, unless reenacted by the Legislature. Since the bill continues the exemption and does not expand the scope of the public records exemption, the bill requires a majority vote of each chamber for passage.

3.     DFS Fraud Prevention Package SB 1292/HB 749

by Sen. Gruters and Rep. Clemons

PASSED

This is one of the two priority bills that Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis filed. The House bill is taking lead and has passed the chamber by a vote of 115-0 and passed the Senate on March 4, by a vote of 39-0. This bill now heads to the Governor.   

·        Negative Option Billing: provides that signing up for a service contract and cancelling a service contract shall be done in the same manner.

·        Increases fines for unlicensed public adjuster practices during a state of emergency declared by executive order of the Governor.

·        Increases fines for unauthorized transaction of insurance during a state of emergency declared by executive order of the Governor.

·        Mirror fraud reporting requirements from the arson investigation statute (633.126) in the insurance fraud reporting statute (626.989) to enhance the Division of Investigative and Forensic Services investigation capabilities, while maintaining the current protections during an investigation.

·        Clarifying investigations are confidential during arson fraud investigations.

·        Provides the Department with authority to impose fines, should the insurer fail to comply with arson investigation reporting requirements.

·        Reduce fraudulent warranty advertisements. The revisions should help a consumer to know they are being solicited for a warranty insurance product from a company approved by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, by a salesperson who is licensed by the Florida Department of Financial Services. We are working to clean this section up and make sure no unintended consequences happen. 

·        Clarify the language in Section 775.15 (11) F.S from “and” to “or” to clarify that charges under 440.105 F.S. and 817.234 F.S. do not have be filed together for the five-year statute of limitation to apply.

·        Mandatory restitution for insurers: further incentive for insurers to invest in fraud prevention, detection and other SIU activities.

TORT REFORM

1.     Contingency Risk Multipliers SB 1910

by Sen. Gruters

DEAD

This bill is dead for this Session. No House companion was ever filed and SB 1910 was not yet been heard. 

In awarding attorney fees, a strong presumption is created that a lodestar fee is sufficient and reasonable. Such presumption may be rebutted only in a rare and exceptional circumstance with evidence that competent counsel could not be retained in a reasonable manner.