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They say they have no choice after the Florida Legislature for the fifth year in a row failed to address the crisis in water damage claims abuse.

“We keep saying help us try to solve this problem,” said Michael Carlson, president of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida.

AOB will ultimately be addressed by the marketplace if lawmakers don’t do anything

Since lawmakers reneged on enacting reforms, insurance carriers are now taking matters into their own hands and the state’s regulator is warning consumers to be prepared.

“We will continue to see homeowners’ insurance companies raise their rates for our consumers in a best-case scenario, and in a worst case scenario just simply stop offering their products in certain regions of the state,” Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told the Florida Cabinet last month

Please enjoy the full article below;

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2017/07/19/457961.htm

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Please watch this video and read the story to see how much money Insurance could cost you.!

http://www.abcactionnews.com/money/consumer/taking-action-for-you/assignment-of-benefits-abuse-driving-up-cost-of-home-car-insurance-in-florida

 

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II. AUTO

Motor Vehicle Insurance/ PIP Repeal Measure

SB 156 (Brandes);1766 (Lee, T); HB 461 (Hager); HB 1063 (Grall)

HB 1063 by Representative Grall has emerged as the main House vehicle for the PIP repeal initiative; none of the other bills in the House have moved.

The bill was reported favorably as a committee substitute out of the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee with a vote of 12 to 2. The bill repeals existing PIP law and requires 25/50 bodily injury coverage and does not require any MedPay coverage and also contains no bad faith limitations.

The Senate plans to hear SB 1766 by Senator Tom Lee on April 3 in the Banking and Insurance Committee. While this bill also repeals the requirement to carry minimum PIP benefits, the bills are not identical, as SB 1766 contains a medical payments component of $5,000. A linked bill includes a public records exemption for medical payment information held by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Unfair Insurance Trade Practices/ Rebate Bill

SB 1032 (Mayfield); HB 1029 (Yarborough)

SB 1032 and HB 1029 amend statute to permit an insurer or its agent to give certain promotional items to insureds, prospective insureds, and others for the purpose of conducting a promotional or advertising program. The bills limit the value of promotional items and prohibit items exceeding $100 in total value from being given. Further, the bills prohibit an insurer or its agent from giving an aggregate total value exceeding $100 in a single calendar year to a single individual. Previously the value was capped at $25 and limited to insurer or agent logo items only.

HB 1029 was passed unanimously by the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee on March 27 and is now in its final committee of reference, House Commerce Committee. The Senate bill is scheduled to be heard on April 3 by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

SB 420 and HB 813 mandate that the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Prevention Methodology to revise hurricane loss prevention models every four years. The House and Senate bills differ in two respects. One, the House bill requires a surplus lines insurer to be rated by A.M. Best in order to be eligible to write flood policies without a diligent effort and the Senate bill requires a rating from any rating agency acceptable to the OIR. Two, the House bill allows flood insurance policies to be exported to the surplus lines market without a diligent effort only until July 1, 2025 and the Senate bill allows this for an indefinite period.

The bills require an agent placing a policyholder with a private flood insurer to get a signed disclosure from the insured 20 days before the expiration of the Federal Flood Insurance policy explaining that if the consumer tries to go back to the Federal Flood Program, they may be subjected to significantly higher rates. We are working to switch this time frame to 20 days after the expiration of the policy.

The Senate bill is scheduled for a hearing on April 3 by Senate Community Affairs, its second of three committee stops. The House bill was approved by Insurance and Banking and moves next to the Commerce Committee.

Workers’ Compensation

SB 1582 (Bradley); HB 7085 (Insurance & Banking Subcommittee)

HB 7085 addresses the recent decisions declaring some components of Florida’s Workers Compensation law unconstitutional. The bill would permit direct payments of attorneys by or on behalf of claimants and increases the total combined temporary wage replacement benefits (TTD/TPD) from 104 weeks to 260 weeks. It also allows a Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) to award an hourly fee that departs from the statutory percentage based attorney fee schedule under certain situations. Among several other components, HB 7085 also permits insurers to uniformly reduce premiums by no more than 5% if they file an informational-only notice within 30 days. Insurance industry representatives believe that the ability of a judge to award additional attorneys’ fees makes this bill less than ideal, and likely means that litigation will continue to expand causing rates to increase.

SB 1582 seeks to stabilize worker’s compensation rates paid by Florida Businesses. The bill requires insurance carriers to authorize or decline requests for authorization from health care providers within a three-day period and provides that a request is deemed to be authorized if the carrier fails to respond. Like the House bill, the Senate bill increases the temporary partial disability benefits from 104 weeks to 260 weeks, in compliance with the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg. SB 1582 retains the statutory fee schedule for setting claimant attorney’s fees but allows the JCC to consider certain factors and permit deviation from the schedule.

The House bill was scheduled to be heard by the Commerce Committee on March 29, but was removed from the agenda at the last minute; it has not been rescheduled at this point. The Senate bill was filed on March 14 and is scheduled for its first hearing on April 3 by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

 

The Florida Division of Insurance Fraud announced the arrest of Tania Michel, 41, for failing to notify the Department of Financial Services of a federal fraud conviction, continuing to work in the insurance industry after having her license expire, and knowingly misappropriating premium funds while working at an insurance agency.

For a period of nine months, Michel worked at a North Miami Beach insurance agency with an expired professional license and with an unreported federal felony conviction. By failing to reapply for her license, she was able to further conceal the felony fraud conviction that would cause her to become permanently barred from the insurance industry. She was fired by the insurance agency owners for suspected misappropriation of funds and sought employment at another Miami insurance agency where she continued the same unlawful behavior of diverting, or stealing, clients’ monthly premium payments for personal use.

Please call  L & S Insurance & Financial Services, Inc. at 1-888-244-7400 for quotes on Home, Flood, Auto, Business & Commercial & Life & Financial products as well. Please enjoy the full article below!

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2015/09/02/380349.htm

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The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud has arrested Roxana Suarez La Rosa on charges related to PIP (personal injury protection) fraud. In 2012, the Saint Jose Injury Center in Jacksonville, Fla., which Suarez La Rosa owned and operated, generated more than 50 insurance claims. During this time, at least three cooperating witnesses indicated that they participated in staged automobile crashes. Each stated that Suarez La Rosa had participants sign for treatments they never received in order to fraudulently bill their insurance companies.

Suarez La Rosa faces charges of fraud and racketeering and up to 50 years in prison if convicted. Additional cases related to the Saint Jose Injury Center are pending. The case is being prosecuted by office of 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Angela Corey.

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2015/05/04/366686.htm

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced nine arrests were made last month for personal injury protection (PIP) fraud in Miami.  Charged in eight separate cases involving seven staged accidents, the individuals were arrested and charged for their involvement in the filing of more than $242,000 in fraudulent billings submitted to 11 insurance carriers.

“While their injuries may have been fake, PIP fraud is real and it is not a victimless crime,” said Atwater. “When insurance carriers absorb such high-dollar losses to fraud, we all pay in the form of higher insurance premiums.”

Please call L & S Insurance at 1-888=244-7400 for quote on Home, Flood, Auto, Business & Commercial, & Life & Financial products as well. Please enjoy the full article below;

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2015/02/12/357330.htm

CLAIMS BILL OF RIGHTS AND ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS CONTINUES TO MOVE This legislation, HB 743 by Representative Hood, and SB 708 by Bean require insurers to provide a “claims bill of rights” to consumers that file homeowners’ claims.  We have worked extensively to make the notices track existing law provisions throughout the insurance code, and inserted language clarifying that this notice does not create new law or a new cause of action in the courts.  The bill contains numerous requirements for contractors accepting an assignment of benefits.  The goal of getting the AOB language out of the bill has been realized, as passage of weak AOB requirements could weaken progress insurers may make in the courts by codifying clearly that AOB’s are permissible. The bill is moving, and was adopted by the full Senate this past week, and will likely be adopted by the House this week. FLOOD INSURANCESB 542 by Brandes, and HB 879 by Hooper create private incentives for insurers to write Flood insurance in Florida.  The House offered a strike all to the bill and enacted it after significant debate on Friday afternoon.  It will be heard again by the House on third reading today and sent back to the Senate, where I anticipate it should be adopted and sent to the Governor, although anything could happen. The bill contains language de-regulating rates for private flood insurance for the next few years, which can be offered in a stand-alone policy, or as a coverage or endorsement to a homeowner’s policy.  Insurers would also have the option of filing their rates for approval.  The legislation allows insurers limited flexibility to design their forms and coverage’s.  The House bill allows insurers to write only four types of flood insurance, standard, preferred, custom and supplemental.  The standard policy will track coverage’s under the existing Federal flood program, and uses the current definition.  Under the house bill, the preferred plan provides additional coverage by expanding the definition of “flood”, adding additional living expenses, and mandating replacement cost for personal property, instead of ACV.  The expanded definition of Flood includes water intrusion originating outside a structure that are not considered a flood loss under a standard flood policy issued by the NFIP.  “Custom policies” must include the standard coverage at a minimum, but allow insurers to be creative.  “Supplemental policies” authorizes a wrap policy product that is sold in conjunction with someone that has existing flood coverage from the NFIP or a voluntary insurer. Agents must notify consumers being removed from the NFIP that if the consumer later wants to re-enter the NFIP, a full risk rate for flood insurance may by charged by NFIP.  Both bills encourage surplus lines insurers to offer flood by eliminating the three declinations from other insurers when placing flood coverage, but the house bill only allows that if the rate is at least 10 percent less  that the flood premiums charged by an admitted Florida insurer. Insurers must notify the OIR 30 days before they begin to write flood insurance, and file a plan of operation and financial pro forma with the OIR. At this point, the House is strongly against allowing policyholders to only purchase enough coverage to cover their mortgage, and passed SB 542 on Friday on special order without this “mortgage only” language. Interestingly, the OIR believes that the bill may have de-regulated form filings, but the requirement to file a plan with the OIR will likely be used to require form filing and approval.   This will be an interesting issue if adopted in its current form.
CITIZENS’ SINKHOLE REPAIR LEGISLATION STALLEDHB 129 passed the full House. This bill makes changes to how Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (“Citizens”) insures and pays claims for sinkholes.  The bill requires Citizens to offer deductible amounts of 2%, 5% and 10% of the policy dwelling limits for sinkhole loss coverage.  Current law allows property insurers including Citizens to offer sinkhole deductibles in the above amounts, including a 1% deductible, but does not require an offer of these deductibles.  Citizens and most insurers only offer sinkhole policies with a 10% deductible.  The bill also establishes a Citizens Sinkhole Repair Program to be operational by March 31, 2015.  The program will utilize approved repair contractors to ensure sinkhole repairs are completed.  Participation in the program will be mandatory for Citizens’ insured’s.  The bill establishes criteria to be an approved contractor.  Each sinkhole loss claim is submitted to the approved stabilization contractors who can submit itemized offers to Citizens for the stabilization repairs contained in the engineering report.  Policyholders will get to choose from a list of qualified approved contractors.  If the repairs cannot be made within policy limits, then Citizens can pay up to the policy limits to the policyholder (and no repairs will be made).  Repairs must be warranted by the contractor for at least 5 years.  The policyholders’ sole remedy is specific performance. The bill does not appear to be moving in the Senate at this point. HOUSE CONSIDERING CITIZENS’ REFORM PACKAGES The House is considering two Citizens’ reform packages which do not exactly match the Senate packages at this time. The House is taking a more conservative approach to property reform at this juncture.  HB 1109 by Representative Wood contains only a couple of reforms:

Currently, bid protests for goods and services purchased by Citizens go before the Board.  This legislation creates the same process for Citizens that exists for state agencies, which allow bid protests to go before an administrative law judge at the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.  After receipt of a recommended order, the Board may overturn it for facts inconsistent in the record, or due to a disagreement with the law; thereafter appeals go directly to the First District Court of Appeals, the court directly below the Florida Supreme Court; and

Allows surplus lines insurers to participate in the Clearinghouse and make offers only on homes which receive no offer in the Clearinghouse from an admitted insurer.  The bill only includes surplus lines insurers that maintain surplus of $50 million, rated superior, excellent, exceptional or equally comparable financial strength by a rating agency acceptable to OIR, which purchase reinsurance covering their 100 year PML at least twice in a single season, and which obtains signed notices from the policyholder that an offer of coverage does not affect Citizens eligibility, and that surplus lines policies are not covered by FIGA or are not subject to rate review by the OIR, and other disclosures.  Policyholders are not made ineligible for coverage in Citizens by virtue of receiving an offer from a surplus lines insurer, and are re admitted to CPIC without underwriting for 36 months after being diverted.

It is unlikely that Representative Wood has the votes to advance the surplus lines portion of his bill. At this point, there will either be no bill or a significantly watered down version; this bill is paired with SB 1672 by Simmons which passed the Senate.

HB 1089 by Representative Raschein from Monroe County contains similar provisions to the Senate bills:

Provides exemptions for improvements to structures seaward of Coastal Control line in a county where 75% of policies are written by Citizens;

Any alternate study regarding wind mitigation discounts must be submitted as part of next Citizens’ rate filing; and

OIR may develop an addendum to the building code form for use in counties with stringent building codes.

HB 1089 passed the full House and has been transmitted to the Senate. FLORIDA INSURANCE GUARANTY ASSOCIATION ASSESSMENT LEGISLATION ADVANCESThis legislation requires new insurers with no prior year premium to make a good faith estimate and remit funds to the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (“FIGA”) upon the occurrence of an assessment;  requires all assessments to be made by all insurers beginning and ending on the same dates;  eliminates rate filings with the OIR;  requires a true up filing with FIGA; requires insurers that over collect to remit all such funds to FIGA, and those that under collect to maintain a credit to be used with FIGA on a future assessment; allows FIGA to waive the up-front payment and collect assessments on a monthly payment option if FIGA maintains at least 6 months cash-flow; and clarifies that advanced assessments grant insurers a statutory accounting asset for the full amount advanced. The legislation has been amended into HB 375 and is headed back to the House. MAXIMUM SPEED LIMIT INCREASE Senate Bill 392 passed the full Senate. This legislation raises the speed limit on access highways to 75 miles per hour and certain other highways to 70 miles per hour. Additionally, the Department of Transportation is authorized to set such maximum and minimum speed limits over other roadways under its authority as it deems safe, not to exceed a maximum of 65 miles per hour. MOTOR VEHICLE UNDERWRITING AND CANCELLATION PERIOD LEGISLATION ADVANCES The full Senate passed SB 490. This legislation increases the motor vehicle underwriting period to a 60-day period instead of a 30-day period for the non cancelable coverage required to reinstate driving privileges revoked or suspended for DUI or failure to maintain required security. This change will make the underwriting period for all motor vehicle insurance policies a uniform 60 days.

Please call L & S Insurance at 1-888-244-7400  for quotes on Home, Auto, Business & Commercial, Flood, and Life & Financial products as well.